The Search for a Perfect Fuel

The emission of greenhouse gases (GHGs) and their implications to climate change have sparked global interest in understanding the relative contribution of the electrical generation industry. There are many different electrical generation methods, each having advantages and disadvantages with respect to operational cost, environmental impact, and other factors.

In relation to GHG emissions, each generation method produces GHGs in varying quantities through construction, operation (including fuel supply activities), and decommissioning. Some generation methods such as coal fired power plants release the majority of GHGs during operation. Others, such as wind power and nuclear power, release the majority of emissions during construction and decommissioning. Accounting for emissions from all phases of the project (construction, operation, and decommissioning) is called a lifecycle approach.

In terms of GHG emission intensity, fossil fuel based generation (coal, oil and natural gas) is significantly higher than the others.

Life Cycle Greenhouse Gas Emissions Intensity of Electricity Generation Methods**