In China and India rapid growth in electricity demand mirrored rapid economic growth, while the most readily available source of indigenous fuel was coal. In the EU and U.S., slower demand growth and a gradual move away from coal to nuclear, gas, and renewable sources kept emissions from growing and led to recent declines. In all four countries, despite strong growth in renewable energy, its impact on carbon intensity was only beginning to be felt.

subjectEmissions Drivers

These graphs show the changes in Power emissions drivers in China, the EU, India, and the US


United States Power sector variables and impact on average emissions factor

The expansion and increased availability of nuclear in the 1980s and 1990s offset growing emissions from coal. In the 2000s, most factors were aligned to improve emissions intensity, including increasing renewables output and gas replacing coal.


    European Union Power sector variables and impact on average emissions factor in the EU27

    During the 1990s, increases in coal and natural gas efficiency and growing nuclear output drove down grid emissions intensity. In the 2000s, the fuel mix shifted away from coal and toward other sources, especially renewable energy. The efficiency of coal plants fell in the 2000s, possibly due to increased sulfur and other pollution controls.


      India Fuel sources for power generation

      Most new generation came from conventional sources (particularly coal), although the past decade saw exponential growth in renewable energy generation.


        China Fuel sources for power generation

        The vast majority of increased generation came from conventional sources, primarily coal. However, the past decade saw exponential growth in low-carbon fuel sources, such as renewable energy, although this energy represented a very small portion of overall electricity production.