Carbon Intensity of Electricity Generation
QUESTION(S) Answered
What was the carbon intensity of electricity generation in the United States as a whole and in the Northwest specifically between 2013-2020?
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This visualization shows the carbon intensity of electricity generation in the United States from 2013 to 2020. Carbon intensity refers to the amount carbon dioxide emitted per unit of electricity produced, in this case shown as lbs CO2 per megawatt-hour (MWh).

The upper visualization displays annual carbon intensity data by state, while the lower visualization traces the historical changes in carbon intensity from 2013 to 2020 in the U.S. and in each state. Note that the 2020 data reflect COVID-19’s impact on energy use and consumption.

Overall, carbon intensity of electricity generation in the U.S. has steadily decreased from 2013 (1,179 lbs CO₂/MWh) to 2019 (921 lbs CO₂/MWh), with exact changes varying by state.

For example, when filtering for Washington state, carbon intensity jumps from 2018 (201 lbs CO₂/MWh) to 2019 (303 lbs CO₂/MWh), then ratchets down in 2020 (228 lbs CO₂/MWh). The increase in 2019 indicates a lower use of clean hydropower and an increased use of carbon-intensive thermal energy such as natural gas. Hydropower and thermal energy use typically vary inversely from year to year in the Northwest.

For more on electricity in the Northwest, visit Northwest Energy Resources Used to Produce Electricity, Northwest Electricity Generation, and Northwest Electricity Capacity. You can also visit the Utilities category to explore electric utilities in Washington in more detail.

How to Use

Hover your mouse over the visualization to see exact figures such as carbon intensity and year-over-year change and click on each element for more options.

Click on the "reset" button (fourth from the right in the bottom right-hand toolbar) to return to the original view. To learn about interacting with the visualizations, visit Tableau Tips.

Use the tabs above the visualization to toggle between the United States and the Northwest. For the map, filter by year (2013-2020) using the dropdown menu. For the lower historical visualization, use the dropdown menu to select a state.