Climate Change & The Environment
As one of the largest electric utilities in the United States and a large consumer of fossil fuels, we strive to reduce the environmental impact of our operations while providing reliable, reasonably priced electricity for our customers. Climate change remains a significant sustainability issue for AEP and one of our most challenging.
We believe climate change is a global issue that requires a global solution and cannot be effectively addressed through the existing mechanisms available under the Clean Air Act, including the piecemeal adoption of new source performance standards for specific industries. As the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency moves forward with regulations designed specifically to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fueled power plants, we will participate in the discussions and work to ensure that regulations addressing climate change are reasonable and reflect the current state of emissions-reducing technologies. We also will strive to ensure that regulations take into account the emission reductions already achieved through the transition of our nation’s electricity generation fleet.
Between 2000 and 2010, we reduced our CO2 emissions by 20% (from 167 million metric tons to 134 million metric tons) through a combination of strategies, including large increases in our natural gas-fired generation capacity, adding about 2,000 MW of renewable energy, and offering commission-approved energy efficiency programs to customers in several states. By 2012, these strategies contributed to a further 9%, or 12 million ton, reduction in our CO2 emissions to 122 million metric tons.
Balancing Our Mix of Fossil Fuels
Abundant, low-cost natural gas, combined with new regulations on coal-fueled power plants, are resulting in greater diversification of the fuels that AEP uses to generate electricity. AEP’s use of coal to generate electricity will decrease in the coming years and our use of natural gas will increase. The remainder of our generating capacity will consist of nuclear, hydro, renewables, and energy efficiency and demand response programs. By 2026, we project that our coal-fueled generating capacity will drop to 45 percent, while natural gas capacity increases to 33 percent.
Because the stability of the electricity grid depends in part on reliable base load capacity that responds effectively to unexpected changes in load or other conditions, we continue to investigate technologies that can supply affordable and reliable base load generation while improving environmental performance. We also are actively engaged in developing advanced electric storage technology and expanding our transmission infrastructure to allow greater integration of renewable and other intermittent resources on the grid.
How We're Addressing Climate Change
Although we'll remain a large consumer of fossil fuels, the changes in our generation fleet will further reduce our future carbon dioxide emissions. Our goal for 2020 is to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by 10 percent from 2010 levels.
We've proactively supported a number of climate change public policy initiatives. We've also made significant investments in clean-coal technologies including carbon capture and storage. Additionally, we continue to increase our use of renewable resources such as wind and solar, and continue to ramp up energy efficiency and demand response programs where there is regulatory support.
For more detailed information, refer to the Climate Change discussion in our Corporate Accountability Report.