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Improved Electrical Grids Cut Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Preventing electricity losses makes power generation more efficient. Those efficiencies translate into lower emissions.
October 10, 2019, 11am PDT | Casey Brazeal | @northandclark
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A report published in Nature shows improvements in the world electrical grid to slow the progress of climate change. "In a new study, Jordaan and Surana estimate that energy lost in the grid results in the release of nearly a billion tons of extra carbon dioxide equivalents into Earth's atmosphere each year," Nala Rogers reports for Inside Climate. After energy is produced, it must travel to the place where it will be put to use. Much of the world’s energy is lost before it gets to the place it's needed. Existing technology could be used to improve grids and curb those losses that improvement in efficiency could translate into a big cut in the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere.

The problem of grid efficiency exists in the developing world and in the developed world, but the characteristics of grid efficiency vary by geaography. While countries like Haiti and Iraq lost an estimated half of their power before it was delivered, countries like the United States consume a much greater amount of power so small improvement translate into huge efficiencies. "For example, the U.S. lost about 6% of its power in 2016. The study suggests that by reducing those losses to 3.2%, Americans could cut their greenhouse gas emissions by about 29 million metric tons per year -- more than the total yearly emissions of Lebanon," Rogers reports.

The study is the first of its kind, and while some have challenged the scale of possible savings, even the study's critics were quick to concede the importance of the issue. The study's authors contend the estimates are conservative given the scale of the issue.

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Published on Monday, October 7, 2019 in Inside Science
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