What is carbon intensity and why it matters

Oluwatoni Olujinmi

It is now more important than ever to assess how different actions affect the environment in the light of growing worries about climate change and its potentially catastrophic consequences for our planet. Carbon intensity is a useful metric for determining the environmental impact of various energy practices and sources. 

The quantity of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions per unit of energy produced or consumed can be measured by looking at the carbon intensity. It’s a win-win situation when people have a firm grasp on carbon intensity. Thus, because it helps reduce harmful emissions and lowers costs associated with running homes and businesses. 

To aid in the fight against climate change, it is important to understand the carbon intensity of the electricity we consume. So that we may make informed decisions about our energy consumption. This article seeks to look into what it means, its significance, how to identify electricity with low carbon intensity, and how to reduce it.

Definition and explanation behind carbon intensity

Carbon intensity is a proxy for the environmental friendliness of our power supply. It measures the total quantity of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from a given activity, industry, or energy source. 

Common units of measurement include tons of carbon dioxide released per kilowatt-hour (kWh) or British thermal unit (BTU). The total CO2 emissions from the energy source’s extraction, production, transportation, and final consumption are factored into the computation.

The amount of carbon included in various energy sources varies. Carbon-rich fossil fuels like coal and oil have a high carbon intensity. Renewable energy sources, on the other hand, have a low carbon intensity. This is because they don’t produce CO2 during the energy generation process

Carbon emissions can be reduced by switching to electricity with a low carbon intensity value. And, using it when the most clean power is available.

Why understanding carbon intensity matters

There are many reasons why it’s important to grasp the concept. To begin, it aids in pinpointing the primary causes of GHG emissions. Which in turn aids in the creation of effective mitigation plans by governments and businesses. To better combat climate change, stakeholders can quantify the carbon intensity of key industries including manufacturing, transportation, and electricity generation.

Second, determining it helps compare the ecological effects of various power plants. Policymakers, corporations, and individuals can make educated judgments about the transition to greener energy options. Thus by comparing the intensity of fossil fuels with renewable alternatives. With this information, we can make more strides toward a low-carbon economy worldwide.

Its knowledge also encourages openness and responsibility. Energy labels and certifications that include information help shoppers make more eco-friendly decisions. As a result, people will be more likely to work together to address climate change by cutting their carbon footprint through their everyday spending habits.

How to identify electricity with low carbon intensity

If you or your company are serious about cutting back on your carbon impact, you need to know how much electricity you use. Several techniques and resources exist to help evaluate and contrast the carbon intensity of various electrical generation options.

Emission factors for electrical grids. Many power systems report their emission factors, which quantify the typical carbon intensity of power generation in a certain area. Consumers can use these parameters, which indicate total CO2 emissions per unit of power consumed, to locate areas with lower carbon intensity.

RECs, or renewable energy credits, are certificates that may be traded and represent the positive environmental effects of using renewable energy to power homes and businesses. By purchasing RECs, consumers may both back renewable energy projects and reduce their carbon footprint by using electricity.

There are a number of online resources and mobile apps that track the carbon intensity of power systems in real time. To calculate it, these tools take into account variables including the region’s energy mix, the time of day, and the weather.

How can you reduce it

Several strategies exist for reducing its impact. Increasing the efficiency of energy use is one approach. This includes making industrial processes, buildings, and transportation, more energy efficient. This reduces the intensity of emissions since less energy is needed to achieve the same amount of economic production. 

Wind, solar, and hydropower are just a few examples of sustainable energy that could be used instead. By comparison to burning fossil fuels, the carbon emissions produced by these renewable energy sources are far lower in intensity. 

Capturing it from industrial operations and storing them underground using carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies is another useful method for lowering the intensity of carbon emissions. Overall, a mix of regulatory, technological, and behavioral improvements is needed to lessen the intensity of carbon emissions.

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