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PJM grid has significant decline in emissions

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(The Center Square) – Partisan divides remain for Pennsylvania’s energy future, but the state’s electric grid keeps posting drops in emissions.

PJM, the 13-state grid that stretches from Illinois to North Carolina, noted a trend that’s continued for two decades: dramatic declines in pollutants.

“From 2005 to 2023, carbon dioxide emission rates fell 43% across PJM’s footprint. Emission rates for nitrogen oxides declined 90%, and the rates for sulfur dioxide dropped 96%,” a press release from PJM says. “This decline has occurred as competitive wholesale electricity markets continue to encourage the entry of new technologies, and lower-emitting, more efficient resources replace older, less efficient units.”

Much of this regional drop has been driven by pollution reductions in Pennsylvania with the switch from coal to natural gas. Though Gov. Josh Shapiro has proposed an energy plan to tax pollution more heavily and encourage renewable energy, the lion’s share of electricity production in the commonwealth still comes from natural gas and nuclear energy, with coal still a bigger source than solar or wind energy.

Natural gas producers say the rise of fracking has driven emissions reductions.

“Accounting for nearly half of PJM’s generation capacity, abundant and clean Pennsylvania natural gas is driving significant air quality improvements in the power sector while also providing critical resilience to the grid,” Marcellus Shale Coalition President David Callahan said. “The data is clear.”

The gains, he said, haven’t been a result of state policy demands.

“Market-based solutions have led to these notable achievements, all of which should ensure that natural gas has a leading role in our energy future,” Callahan said.

Future reductions, however, could stagnate. State policy and issues with building more gas pipelines has meant production in Pennsylvania has been somewhat stagnant as production grows in Texas and Louisiana. Additionally, the Biden administration has put a pause on LNG exports.