Descending from the Pollution Plateau

Descending from the Pollution Plateau: Why Carbon Dioxide Emissions are Declining in the Mountain West and How to Keep it that Way

After increasing for many years, carbon dioxide (CO2 ) emissions from power plants in the Mountain West region have begun to level off and decline. There are several reasons for this change in trajectory, beginning with the retirement of a large coal-fired power plant. Another major factor has been the recession, which greatly reduced demand for electricity. In addition, state regulatory policies increased the role of renewable energy and energy efficiency. And municipal, community-based, and business sustainability goals are contributing to greater adoption of renewable energy and energy efficiency, thereby reducing emissions.

At the present time, it is not clear whether the pace of coal plant retirements and deployment of renewable energy and energy efficiency will more than off set increased emissions due to economic growth and warmer weather. But it is clear that concerted public and private sector efforts to deploy renewable energy, increase energy efficiency, and retire coal-fired power plants are needed to continue a downward trend in CO2 emissions from the electric power sector.

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