Exelon Looks to Cleaner Energy Generation to Cut Emissions

Exelon Looks to Cleaner Energy Generation to Cut Emissions

The Exelon Corporation has created a multi-pronged plan for reducing 15.7 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions a year by 2020. The strategy covers not only the company's direct emissions, but those from its customers and suppliers.

The plan includes such steps as reducing energy use at Exelon buildings by 25 percent, offering energy efficiency programs to customers and supporting offsetting projects.

But the biggest gains are expected to be made in replacing carbon-heavy energy generation with lower-carbon alternatives, mostly with nuclear power.

Exelon estimates that by increasing the energy output of its existing nuclear facilities, it can reduce its emissions by 8.4 million metric tons a year. The company operates the U.S.'s largest and the world's third-largest nuclear fleet with 17 reactors at 10 stations.

In addition, new natural gas-fired power plants will be used to replace dirtier generation when new capacity is needed. The 2020 plan also includes renewable energy, but it estimates reducing only 1.1 million metric tons of emissions a year through new renewable generation. Exelon currently produces energy from hydroelectric and landfill gas sources, and markets wind and solar power.

Low-carbon energy is one of the three broad areas the company covers in "Exelon 2020: A Low-Carbon Roadmap." The others are reducing direct energy use and providing energy efficiency programs, products and services to customers.

Part of reducing the energy use by its own operations includes replacing circuit breakers that use sulfur hexafluoride, which is 24,000 more potent than carbon dioxide, and taking preventative measures to avoid leaks of the substance.

Cutting 25 percent of the energy used by its 125 facilities will include changes to its IT operations: improving data centers, purchasing more efficient PCs and monitors and virtualizing servers.

Last year Exelon's 4,900-vehicles fleet used 6 million gallons of fuel. The company has about 200 hybrid vehicles and uses some electric vehicles in warehouse operations, and it plans to increase its use of alternative fuels, hybrids and electric vehicles.

Employees and customers are part of the plan, too. Exelon is running programs to encourage employees to take greener steps at work and at home. It's planning a number of residential and commercial programs covering efficient lighting, heating, cooling, weatherization and energy audits. Exelon is also investigating billing customers based on the hourly market prices of energy to reduce energy use at peak times.

Lastly, the plan calls for legislation on energy efficiency standards, federal loan guarantees for new nuclear capacity development, renewable resource mandates, research and development funding for renewable energy and standard practices for offsets.