Projects › Climate change transitions for Northeast Ohio
Climate change transitions for Northeast Ohio
The GreenCityBlueLake Institute completed an emissions inventory of greenhouse gases in Northeast Ohio using 2005 as a baseline year. We also developed 3 detailed transition plans for our largest sources of emissions - buildings, energy production, and transportation.
Using the 2005 baseline emissions inventory, GCBL developed a business-as-usual 2050 scenario and corresponding action plans for three key sectors—energy generation, buildings, and transportation—to show realistic actions that can be taken over the coming decades for Northeast Ohio to reduce CO2 emissions by 90 percent.
These transition plans allow us to better understand the changes and investments that will be needed in the coming decades for our region to respond to anticipated federal regulations on greenhouse gas emissions, while successfully reducing carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions and positioning our region to create jobs and wealth.
Initial public working meetings were held in Fall 2008 and early 2009 to help inform and shape the solutions and recommendations for Northeast Ohio, resulting in the transition plans below:
In 2007, the GreenCityBlueLake Institute conducted an emissions inventory for a seven-county region in Northeast Ohio including Cuyahoga, Geauga, Lake, Lorain, Medina, Portage and Summit Counties. We gathered data on the region’s electricity and natural gas use, solid waste generation, transportation habits and other fuel use to help us better understand which sector/s or activities generate the bulk of Northeast Ohio’s greenhouse gases.
This analysis is by no means a comprehensive picture of the region’s carbon footprint. We focused primarily on fossil fuel use, although we did include waste generation. Not accounted for in this analysis were emissions generated by agriculture, land-use change and industrial processes that produce greenhouse gases as a byproducts.
GreenCityBlueLake’s Northeast Ohio emissions inventory analysis estimated that 63.87 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalents (eCO2) were generated by the sources described in the sections below. Based on an estimated population of 2,828,553 for 2005, this works out to about 22.65 tons per person.
When compared to other analyses these numbers, although slightly low, are pretty much on par. The Climate Analysis Indicators Tool (CAIT), developed by the World Resources Institute (WRI), estimates that the average Ohioan generated 27.0 tons of eCO2 in 2005 and that the United States averaged 23.5 tons of eCO2 per person that same year.
Some of the difference between the CAIT analysis and GCBL’s can be explained by the differences between fuel sources for electricity generation. CAIT’s state level analysis uses a fuel mix comprised of nearly 92 percent coal. The northeast Ohio analysis takes into account a fuel mix of 73 percent coal since all of the state’s nuclear generation is in the northern part of the state.
The CAIT analysis also accounts for emissions from agriculture, livestock and industrial processes that produce greenhouse gases as a byproduct.
Fuel use in the residential and transportation sectors each generate about 27 percent of the region’s greenhouse gas emissions. About 26 percent of Northeast Ohio’s carbon footprint can be attributed to fuel use in the region’s industrial sector and about 19% is generated in the commercial sector.
The solid waste sector in Northeast Ohio acts as a small carbon sink. Much of Northeast Ohio's residential and commercial waste is organic and requires long time periods to fully decompose. As a result, a portion of the landfilled organic waste is sequestered carbon. Furthermore, most of the region's waste is disposed of in landfills that have an operational landfill gas to energy (LFGTE) project. These projects help reduce the region's need for electricity from the grid and avoid the associated emissions.
Northeast Ohio’s electricity usage generated more than 47 percent of the emissions in our carbon footprint. Natural gas use generated nearly 26 percent and gasoline use in the transportation sector contributed another 22 percent. Combined, these energy sources generated more than 94 percent of Northeast Ohio’s GHGs.
Northeast Ohio's reduction opportunities
Understanding the sources of the region's carbon footprint helps us to develop better and more impactful reduction strategies. Our analysis showed that nearly half of the region's carbon footprint is attributed to our electricity use. Reducing emissions from our electricity, either through reduced consumption or by reducing the carbon intensity of our generation fuel mix, is our greatest opportunity to reduce Northeast Ohio's carbon footprint.
As a result energy efficient buildings and clean and renewable energy sources are two foci of GCBL's Northeast Ohio climate transition plan. A third focus of our transition plan is transportation, which generates more than a quarter of the region's greenhouse gas emissions.The data we used and its sources
Northeast Ohio electricity consumption
In 2005, our seven-county region consumed over 33.4 million megawatt-hours (MWh) of electricity - more than 20% of the State’s total.
Akron-based FirstEnergy Corporation supplies about 90% of Northeast Ohio with electricity. The other 10% of the region’s power is distributed and/or generated by two rural electric associations (REA) and members of American Municipal Power of Ohio (AMP Ohio).
The REAs and AMP Ohio members provided GCBL with the number of kilowatt hours (kWh) sold to each the residential, commercial and industrial sectors in 2005. For the most part, the service areas of these entities lie entirely within the region. In the few instances where a service area straddled the boundary of the region, we used service area and population density maps to help us determine the percent that lies within the region. Company percentages for each sector were then applied to the portion within the region.
Sales data for the two FirstEnergy companies that serve the region, The Cleveland Electric Illuminating Company (CEI) and Ohio Edison, was obtained from the companies’ annual reports submitted to the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO). Both companies have large and far reaching service areas that extend outside the region considerably. We requested a breakdown of company sales by county, but this data is either not tabulated or made available to the public. The method described above was used to estimate the percentage of each company’s sales that might be attributed to Northeast Ohio. The companies’ sector percentages were applied to the region as well.
These assumptions combined with the FirstEnergy’s large presence in the region may contribute a small margin of error with our electricity data - both in the region’s usage and sector breakdown.
In addition to electricity consumption, we sought the region’s specific electricity generation fuel mix. Given that FirstEnergy operates two nuclear power plants in northern Ohio, it stood to reason that Northeast Ohio’s electricity would have a smaller climate impact than the calculator default which accounts for Ohio’s, and our neighboring states', heavy reliance on coal.
FirstEnergy provided a fuel mix breakdown for all of their 2005 Ohio generation – 62% from coal, 35% from nuclear and 3% unknown. Percent ownership information for of each of FirstEnergy’s nuclear power facilities, found on the Energy Information Administration (EIA) website helped us to refine this data to better reflect our region’s specific fuel mix. Approximately 63% of FirstEnergy’s Ohio nuclear power is owned by either CEI or Ohio Edison; Toledo Edison owns the remainder. From this we calculated that about 22% of Ohio Edison and CEI’s generation is nuclear.
A number of the AMP Ohio members and both REAs in the region provided GCBL with their generation fuel mix. For those that did not know or only knew a portion of their fuel mix, the default grid average fuel mix was applied.
We calculated an emissions factor specific to our region based on the generation fuel mix information we received. A weighted average of the various fuels’ emissions factors produced a Northeast Ohio electricity emissions factor of 1.931 lbs eCO2 per kWh. The calculator's default emissions factor for our region, the East Central Area Reliability Coordination Agreement (ECAR), is 2.2 lbs/kWh.
Northeast Ohio’s electricity emissions factor is smaller than the regional grid average because our region is less dependent on coal than the rest of ECAR.
Our natural gas consumption
Northeast Ohio used more than 211,600 million cubic feet (MMCF) of natural gas in 2005, more than half of which was categorized as residential use. Combined, Columbia Gas of Ohio and Dominion East Ohio provided more than 99.5% of the region’s natural gas that year.
Both of these companies provided GreenCityBlueLake with county level sales data for each county in our region. This specificity of data permitted us to obtain a relatively accurate account of the region’s natural gas use.
The remaining half percent of the region’s natural gas sales was provided by four smaller companies, including Northern Industrial Energy Development, Inc. (NIED), Northeast Ohio Natural Gas Corporation, Brainard Gas Corporation, and Orwell Natural Gas Company, Inc.
The same method used to determine regional sales data for the electric companies (service area and population density maps) was used to determine the percentage of these smaller companies’ sales that might have been within the region. Their company-wide sales data was obtained from the annual reports submitted to the PUCO.
We used this sales data for the residential and commercial sectors only. For the industrial sector we instead used usage data reported to the Ohio EPA under Title V of the Clear Air Act. Both the rationale and data source are better explained in the section below titled Industrial and Commercial Fuel Use.
Since our data only includes natural gas sales by public utilities, it does not include use of natural gas produced by private wells.
Transportation/vehicle miles traveled
The region’s two metropolitan planning organizations (MPO), Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency (NOACA) and Akron Metropolitan Area Transportation Study (AMATS) both provided data in the form of daily vehicle miles traveled (VMT). NOACA expressed some concern with regards to the usefulness of the data for our purposes since it was compiled with the goal of capturing VMT for commutes rather than all trips, which would lend to a low number.
With this in mind we sought a more complete data set. We initially sought the number of gallons of gasoline and diesel fuels sold in each county. This data does not exist at the county level. Our next step was to find the tax revenue generated in each county from gasoline and diesel sales, which we would use to calculate gallons sold. This data is either not tabulated or not made available to the public.
At a loss for a direct data source, we conducted several analyses with a variety of data sets and compared them. An example is county level sales for gasoline stations and gasoline stations with convenient stores from the U.S. Economic Census. These sales figures include those of other goods and services in addition to fuel necessitating the need to find a breakdown of sales for the industry. We also conducted an analysis using state VMT and the number of Ohio licensed drivers from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).
Our goal for each analysis was to calculate the total gallons of gasoline and diesel sold in the region. The totals from all of the analyses were averaged which was then compared to each total. All were within 10% of the average with the exception of the data provided by NOACA and AMATS, which was nearly 20% below the average.
The data that produced results most in line with the average was used in our emissions inventory. This was data found in the FHWA publication Highway Statistics 2005.
We used the number of Ohio licensed drivers to calculate the percent of the population that drives and then used this number to determine the annual vehicle miles traveled per driver. This information was then applied to the population of Northeast Ohio to obtain the total VMT of the region. According to this analysis Northeast Ohioans drove more than 27.26 billion miles in 2005.
The calculator defaults for the on-road vehicle fleet and vehicle class fuel efficiencies were maintained. A quick analysis of these defaults identified the overall fuel efficiencies of the default fleets to be 19.70 for gasoline vehicles and 9.515 for diesel vehicles. The fuel efficiency of the complete default on-road fleet works out to 18.97 miles per gallon.
Public transportation (0.60% of total transportation)
Less than one quarter of one percent of the region’s greenhouse gases are generated by public transportation. The 2005 Revenue Vehicle Inventory Database from the National Transit Database (NTD) was the source of our public transportation data. We identified the annual VMT for each vehicle/fuel type for each reporting transit agency in the region; there were six. We entered these VMT into the calculator, using the default fuel efficiencies provided in the calculator.
Solid waste generation/disposal, recycling and composting
Our analysis uses 2006 data, rather than 2005, for solid waste. Changes in reporting procedures to the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 2005 lent to difficulties in summarizing the data and consequently discrepancies in some of the reports we were using.
There are seven Solid Waste Management Districts (SWMD) in our seven-county region, all of which file annual reports to the Ohio EPA’s Division of Solid and Infectious Waste Management. The Annual District Report Form was the source of most of our solid waste data. From this report we were able to identify the tonnage of residential and commercial waste generated in each SWMD as well as the destination of the waste, whether it was to a transfer facility or directly hauled to a landfill.
More than 2.8 million tons of trash were generated by the region’s residential and commercial sectors in 2006. This does not include industrial waste, construction and demolition debris, asbestos and other waste. We focused on the residential and commercial sectors for two reasons. First, we used the State of Ohio Waste Characterization Study to determine the composition breakdown of the region’s solid waste, and this study only sampled collection vehicles transporting residential and commercial waste. Second, the anaerobic breakdown of organic waste is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions from solid waste. Very little trash generated by the industrial and construction and demolition sectors is organic. More than half of that generated by the residential and commercial sectors is composed of paper and food scraps.
The destination information provided in the Annual District Report Form allowed us to identify the percentage of directly hauled waste that was disposed of in a landfill employing an operational methane recover project. The U.S. EPA’s Landfill Methane Outreach Program (LMOP) maintains a database of landfills with methane recovery programs. Nearly 85% of the region’s direct hauled residential and commercial waste is disposed of in a landfill with landfill gas (LFG) energy project. We assumed the same percentage for transferred waste.
Recycling and composting data for the residential and commercial sectors is also included in the Annual District Report Form. Northeast Ohio recycled 593,021 tons of waste in 2006. This figure includes items such as tires, appliances, electronics, furniture, batteries, and other household waste, in addition to the traditional recyclables of glass, paper, plastic, aluminum, etc. More than 57% of this was paper and cardboard.
In addition to recycling more than half a million tons of waste, the region composted nearly 400,000 tons of yard waste in 2006.
Industrial and commercial fuel use
The Ohio EPA’s Division of Air Pollution Control’s website provides access to Emissions Inventory Point Source Data. This is data reported to the Ohio EPA in compliance with Title V of the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990. With the help of the folks at the Ohio EPA, we were able to extract data for each of the seven counties in the region using the Facility ID codes.
Polluting units and processes are categorized by Process IDs which are the same as the Standard Classification Codes (SCC). Cross referencing the Process IDs with the List of Standard Classification Codes (SCC) helped us to identify fossil fuel based emissions sources as well as the type of fuel burned and sector (i.e. electric generation, industrial or commercial) associated with each Process ID.
Since we elected to account for electricity consumed rather than generated, most of the data associated with the electric generation sector was omitted from our analysis. There were however some electric generation data that was maintained but recategorized to either the commercial or industrial sector depending on the classification of the reporting entity. We kept this data because the producing entity was also the end user and therefore was not accounted for in our electricity sales data.
Once all the data was sorted through and trimmed, we calculated the totals for tons of coal burned, gallons of light and heavy oil burned, and tons of wood/bark waste burned for each of the industrial and commercial sectors. Natural gas use, in million cubic feet, was only calculated for the industrial sector. We used sales data provided by the natural gas companies for the commercial sector. Reported natural gas use by the commercial sector was only about half of the natural gas sales reported by the natural gas companies, but not all entities are required to report under Title V. For this reason, our fuel use data for both the industrial and commercial sectors is likely to be low.
Alternative home heating fuel
About 95% of the region’s homes are heated with either natural gas or electricity. Only about 5% use an alternative fuel like wood, coal, fuel oil or propane.
The Ohio Department of Development’s Ohio County Profiles identify the number of housing units that utilize various fuel types. This data, along with Ohio’s residential sector energy usage (in MBtu) found on the Energy Information Administration website, was used to calculate Northeast Ohio’s residential alternative home heat fuel consumption.
The simple message is this: to tackle climate change you do not have to reduce your quality of life, but you do have to change the way you live.
- Ken Livingstone, former mayor of London
Our water vision >
What does it mean to be sustainable with water in Northeast Ohio?
Help us create the future! >
Your donation helps GCBL bring fresh ideas to Northeast Ohio
Where's the best urban stroll? >
From Shaker to Hudson, here's our list of favorite places to stroll