California Power Generation Carbon Emissions Slid 22% in 2011

Carbon emissions from power generation in California tumbled 22 percent in 2011, countering increases from other industrial sources and helping drive statewide plant emissions down 5.6 percent.

Emissions from California’s electricity generation sector fell to 34.9 million metric tons in 2011 from 44.6 million in 2010, data posted on the state Air Resources Board’s website show. Total reported emissions were 111 million metric tons, down from 117.6 million. The emissions are from stationary sources only.

The reductions “reflect decreases from California electricity emissions due to increased renewable generation (increased hydro, solar, wind and nuclear generation) and a decrease in consumption,” the air board said in its report.

The data was released as part of a cap-and-trade program that will eventually regulate 85 percent of the greenhouse gases released in California with a goal of cutting pollution to 1990 levels by 2020. Under the program, which began this year, companies that exceed a set emissions cap can buy allowances, each permitting the release of a metric ton of carbon, from those below the limit.

Futures contracts based on California carbon allowances for 2013 sold as low as $13.90 a metric ton today after the emissions data was posted on the air resources board’s website, down from yesterday’s settlement of $14.95, Lenny Hochschild, managing director of Evolution Markets based in White Plains, New York, said by e-mail. Prices settled at $14.40, he said.

Emissions Declined

The state’s total plant emissions declined even as the 2011 data included discharges that weren’t required to be reported in previous years, the air board’s report showed.

The electricity generation and cogeneration sectors were the only source categories that reported declines in greenhouse-gas pollution in 2011.

Emissions reported by cement plants, oil refineries, oil and gas producers and other industries rose. Pollution from oil and gas production jumped by the most, rising 21 percent to 12.6 million metric tons.

The air board plans to allocate 53.9 million free allowances to industrial companies this year to prevent emissions from increasing outside the state, among other things, according to a separate report posted on the agency’s website today. Refineries will receive 29.3 million of those free permits and crude and natural gas producers 10.1 million.

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