UK Site Tracks Power Plant Pollution in Real Time

carbon calculatorClever Englishmen and women have devised the world’s newest carbon calculator. Using streaming data from the agencies responsible for maintaining the UK’s power grid, adjusts the carbon footprint of each kiloWatt hour of juice every five minutes.
While there are a plethora of carbon calculators out there, Real Time Carbon is the first to adjust to energy use fluctuations during the day. When carbon output is above average, the website announces a “carbon alert” in the form of a little blinking red button on the site.

Not Just Data — Real Time Data
In the mornings, and, more generally, during the day, when electricity demand goes up, utilities switch on more power plants. In the UK, this means resorting to especially dirty coal and oil burning plants (in the US, which uses less renewable energy, the coal plants are likely already on).
By tapping into the same data these power companies use to determine when to switch on their plants, Real Time Carbon determines which types of plants — clean, dirty or utterly filthy — are in use, and then, based on their estimated output, comes up with a number, in grams, of carbon emitted per kWh nationally.
So What?
The Real Time Carbon calculator actually fits into a growing trend for “smart” real time electrical data. There is already a growing market for smart meters that show consumers when electricity is the most expensive. The Real Time Carbon calculator can show them when it’s dirtiest.

Real Time Carbon wants to help energy users see the real-time carbon intensity of electricity so they can avoid consuming at times of high emissions. We look forward to a time when appliances, buildings and factories automatically manage demand according to the carbon being released.

There is, as yet, no similar website for the United States.
More on Real Time Carbon from Treehugger
More Carbon Calculators:
The Nature Conservancy’s Extensive, Prim Calculator
Yale’s “Choose Your Own Assumption” Carbon Calculator
Calculating with the Enemy: Oil Giant BP’s Calculator

BC (Ben) Upham is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles. He has written for the New York Times, and was a writer and editor for News Communications, Inc., a local paper consortium serving Manhattan. When he's not blogging on green issues -- and especially renewable energy -- he's hiking in the Angeles Mountains or hanging out at El Matador.