Why Propane Power Generators Cleaner Than Diesel

A new study from the Propane Education & Research Council (PERC) emphasizes the need to accelerate decarbonization today with clean energy sources like propane. The analysis, Power Generation: The Emissions Shifting Problem looks at the recent trends in power generation and how propane systems can offer a low emissions and resilient solution for commercial construction professionals and their customers. 
“Popular opinion has been that electrification of everything is the only solution for the climate crisis,” said Dr. Gokul Vishwanathan, director of research & sustainability at PERC. “Unfortunately, this is a very simplistic one-dimensional proposal for an extremely complex multi-dimensional energy and climate problem.” 
Climate change induced severe weather events coupled with natural disasters has led to electrical grid failures. Commercial propane generators provide supplemental power for a building’s electrical loads when power from the electric grid is interrupted. 
Unexpected outages have increased as the U.S. places growing electricity demands on a century-old grid. In fact, the United States endures more blackouts than any other developed nation. And according to federal databases at the Department of Energy (DOE) and the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC), the number of U.S. outages lasting more than an hour have increased steadily over the past decade. The Energy Information Administration (EIA) conducted an analysis and on average, a person in the US went over eight hours without electricity in 2020. That’s more than twice as long the average American went without power in 2013, the year that the EIA started keeping track. This loss of power to commercial buildings can impact vital systems like smoke and fire detection, elevators, refrigeration units, heating and cooling equipment, health and safety equipment, communications, and many other applications. 
To combat those failures, reliance on diesel power generation has increased, creating a bigger emissions problem and degradation of local air quality. Propane power generation equipment, including backup generators and combined heat and power systems can help businesses increase safety and resiliency, avoid economic losses, and reduce emissions allowing businesses to retain their clean operation even with a power failure. 
“Replacing diesel assets with propane-powered equipment will continue to push us toward significant air quality improvement and decarbonization,” said Vishwanathan. “It is markedly important to just not focus on electrification of all sectors but on a diversified portfolio that accounts for both market dynamics and consumer preferences.” 
The analysis presented the following findings: 

  • There is a tremendous reliance on diesel generators for commercial and microgrid applications. Sales of diesel generators have significantly increased due to electric grid disturbances caused by severe weather events, exacerbating local air quality concerns. 
  • Propane can displace diesel generators in these markets and significantly improve local air quality, particularly by mitigating nitrogen oxides and particulate matter. 
  • Combined heat and power solutions offer both power and heat (and/or cooling), while providing significant reductions in nitrogen oxides, particulate matter, and carbon dioxide emissions. 

“We know that customers are not only looking for a reliable power solution, but they’re seeking clean equipment with a low emissions profile, too,” said Bryan Cordill, director of residential and commercial business development at PERC. “Propane is a stable, portable energy source that can help support Americans even when the grid goes down, ensuring continuity of operations. Plus, using propane every day in your facilities helps reduce the strain on our fragile electric grid and the more diverse America’s energy mix is, the more reliable it is.” 
Read the complete study and learn more at Propane.com/Research. 
Propane Education & Research Council (PERC) 
The Propane Education & Research Council is a nonprofit that provides leading propane safety and training programs and invests in research and development of new propane-powered technologies. PERC is operated and funded by the propane industry. For more information, visit Propane.com 

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