Fact File: Carbon Footprint

Fact File: Carbon Footprint

What’s the carbon footprint of different sources of electricity generation?

All electricity generation technologies emit greenhouse gases at some point in their life cycle and so have a carbon footprint. Fossil-fuels have a high carbon footprint. “Carbon capture and storage” could reduce these significantly at the plant level, though if the captured carbon dioxide is used to increase crude oil extraction the net carbon benefit is unclear. By comparison, nuclear and renewables have a low carbon footprint, even when including the energy needed to extract and process the respective raw materials.

This report from the UK government’s Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology compiles findings from a wide range of international studies on full life cycle emissions in electricity. Carbon footprints are sensitive to factors including the technology’s operating conditions and country of its manufacture.

You may find the results surprising.

Coal 846 gCO2eq/kWh

Gas 488 gCO2eq/kWh for a CCGT

Solar 75 to 116 gCO2eq/kWh

Bioenergy: 60 to 270 gCO2eq/kWh

Geothermal 15 to 53 gCO2eq/kWh

Marine (Wave and Tidal) 23 gCO2eq/kWh

On-shore wind: 20 to 38 gCO2eq/kWh

Nuclear from 5.5 gCO2eq/kWh to 26 gCO2eq/kWh

Off-shore wind: 9 to 13 gCO2eq/kWh.

Hydro: 2 to 13 gCO2eq/kWh