Derek Murrow, Director, Federal Energy Policy, Washington, D.C.
This blog was co-authored with Montina Cole
This week the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a historic plan to reduce carbon pollution from the power sector, and power companies across the country are responding positively to this new initiative that will help protect public health and the environment by reducing the greenhouse gases that fuel climate change. Building on continually emerging clean energy innovations and a modernizing shift already underway in the electric utility sector, the EPA's final Clean Power Plan (CPP) sets pollution limits for power plants and empowers states to deploy strategies of their choosing to cut carbon emissions from those plants. The power sector is the single biggest source of carbon pollution in the nation and the Clean Power Plan introduces the first-ever national limits on emissions of carbon dioxide from power plants.
Power company responses to the Clean Power Plan shortly after the rule's release indicate broad support across the industry for EPA's final carbon emission guidelines and the benefits the rule will bring. And even as several companies continue to review the final rule's details, many preliminary reactions have been favorable, acknowledge the importance of reducing greenhouse gases, or indicate readiness to work collaboratively in the states as plans are developed and the rule is implemented. Companies from both the private and public sectors of the industry are voicing their opinion.
Here is a sampling of what individual power companies are saying about the final Clean Power Plan:
- "The Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) release of the Clean Power Plan represents a seminal moment for the power generation industry. Based on statements by President Obama and the EPA, it appears the plan mandates significant but achievable CO2 emissions reductions while giving the states broad discretion in how to achieve those goals. Specifically, the plan provides a framework that will allow states to adopt a market-based approach to achieving reductions, easing the states' burden while allowing market economics to decide the best mix of generation resources to achieve the goal. Importantly, these emissions reductions will be realized in a manner that ensures continued affordable and reliable electricity. Calpine Corporation (NYSE:CPN) believes the plan, as broadly described, is a workable and achievable approach to control CO2 emissions that will benefit generations to come." (Calpine)
- "Iberdrola USA commends the Obama administration for taking action to curb CO2 emissions from electric generation facilities," said Bob Kump, chief corporate officer for Iberdrola USA. "The EPA's Clean Power Plan affirms that renewable energy must play an important role in reducing our greenhouse gas emissions, while recognizing that we can reliably and efficiently increase our use of wind, solar, and other renewable resources. Importantly, the plan provides states the flexibility they need to adopt solutions consistent with their unique conditions and resources. Moreover, the plan has the necessary provisions giving states and utilities time to develop new transmission facilities and other infrastructure essential to support the transition to the next generation of energy resources. We also appreciate that the EPA has ensured the rule will not impair the reliable service utilities provide our customers every day." (Iberdrola)
- "Ralph Izzo, president, chairman and CEO OF PSEG, [New Jersey's] largest electric utility, said the company is still analyzing the plan, but that PSEG supports it. 'We are pleased with the recognition that energy efficiency is an important tool to reducing greenhouse gases,' he said in a statement. 'We understand states may be incentivized to promote energy efficiency for low-income customers as an early tool to reduce greenhouse gases. We believe utilities can play a critical role in making sure that all energy users -- especially low and moderate income customers who need it most -- have access to energy efficiency.'" (PSEG)
- "We at CPS Energy have been on a steady path to diversify and reduce the carbon output of our generation fleet. With the best market structure, low energy costs, and vast renewable and natural gas resources, Texas is uniquely positioned. After final resolution of the Clean Power Plan, we look forward to working with the state to continue taking a leadership role in carbon reduction." (CPS Energy)
- Dominion will work constructively with Governor McAuliffe, the state agencies, and other stakeholders on a compliance plan that has our customers as the first priority, ensures reliability, and maintains a diverse mix of electric generation. I commend Administrator McCarthy for making critical changes to the proposed rule." (Dominion Resources)
- "'This landmark, comprehensive regulation will enable real progress in significantly reducing greenhouse gases,' said National Grid US president Dean Seavers. 'The Obama Administration and EPA, under the leadership of Gina McCarthy, have worked tirelessly to craft a regulation that promotes the protection of human health and the environment through a host of clean energy options. This new rule supports market-based solutions while giving the states options to flex them to address their specific characteristics.' . . . 'National Grid will be actively collaborating with the states and other stakeholders as they develop their implementation plans to ensure the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from the energy sector and advance America's efficient and clean energy future.' (National Grid)
- "'There is no question that today's announcement is positive for renewables and it will be positive in the long term for the renewable business at NextEra.'" (NextEra)
- "It is expected that this first-ever national program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the power sector will advance investments in clean energy technologies throughout the country and provide tremendous environmental benefit. . . . Tony Earley, Chairman, CEO and President of PGE Corporation, commented on the release of the final rule saying, 'I congratulate the Administration on finalizing the Clean Power Plan rule and greatly appreciate the significant outreach and engagement with our sector. They took the time to understand that states and regions are in different starting places and have different opportunities for achieving emission reductions.'" (PG&E)
- "This ambitious plan seeks to build on the substantial progress Duke Energy and other utilities have made to reduce our environmental footprint. . . . As we continue to move to a lower carbon future, we will also continue to work constructively with states to identify customer solutions that preserve the reliability and affordability that our communities expect." (Duke Energy)
- "Skiles Boyd, DTE's vice president of environmental management and resources, said the Detroit-based power company is positioned to meet the EPA's new carbon regulations.' . . . 'We appreciate that the EPA recognized providing utilities with some additional time to meet the first compliance deadline would benefit customers and cushion the economic impact while still achieving the targeted environmental benefits.' (DTE)
- "[T]he Jackson-based utility is prepared to meet the carbon emissions targets in the EPA's revised Clean Power Plan. . . . [T]he company will work with state and federal regulators to comply with future regulations." (Consumers Energy)
- "'It appears from our initial analysis that the EPA has responded constructively to the coordinated outreach from Arizona elected officials, regulators, utilities and other stakeholders regarding Arizona's plan.' (Tucson Electric Power Company)
- "The Clean Power Plan is a rule that will move the nation forward with national climate goals. We applaud that. . . . We look forward to working with state authorities and other utilities as we understand and adapt to this new Plan." (Austin Energy)
- "'Westar has been supportive from the beginning of putting together a state implementation plan,' Westar spokeswoman Gina Penzig said. 'We think that ... a common-sense Kansas approach would be a better solution than to wait and see what implementation plan the federal government might come up with.' (Westar Energy)
- "'It's time to regulate CO2 emissions from power plants -- it is definitely time,' said Eric Olsen, vice president and general counsel for Great River. 'This rule may not be the best rule, but we've already been sitting down with Minnesota and North Dakota officials to talk.'" (Great River Energy)
- MidAmerican said it doesn't "anticipate that the [CPP] will have a significant impact on our customer rates," given the company's growing investment in wind energy. MidAmerican's CEO Bill Fehrman last week said the Des Moines-based company expected to get 57 percent of its energy from wind after adding 552 megawatts of wind energy. (MidAmerican/Berkshire Hathaway Energy)
- "'While we expect the Clean Power Plan does not provide everything we hoped for in terms of fully recognizing the early actions of proactive states and utilities, Xcel Energy is ready to move ahead. We look forward to working with our states in the best interest of our customers, ensuring we continue to meet their expectations for clean, reliable and affordable power.'" (Xcel)
- "While we are still reviewing the details of the plan, we are confident that the final rule provides the states the flexibility needed to design their program implementation to address state specific characteristics and impacts. Seattle City Light looks forward to working with Washington State and other stakeholders as we develop a strong and effective state implementation plan." (Seattle City Light)
- "LADWP applauds US EPA's release of its final Clean Power Plan which will limit carbon emissions from power plants. As the nation's largest municipal utility, LADWP is in the midst of a historic transformation of its electric power system to eliminate burning coal to produce electricity, while increasingly investing in energy efficiency, locally generated solar, and other renewable energy sources. . . . LADWP looks forward to working with US EPA and the California Air Resources Board as they implement the final Clean Power Plan." (Los Angeles Department of Water and Power)
Edison Electric Institute, which represents almost all the investor owned utilities in the U.S. said:
"Throughout this rulemaking process, EEI raised a number of issues, and EPA seems to have responded to some of our key concerns. While we are still reviewing and analyzing the rule's specifics and the impact of the restructured interim goals, the final guidelines appear to contain a range of tools to maintain reliability and better reflect how the interconnected power system operates."
"We appreciate EPA's significant outreach over the past year. Given the length and complexity of this rule -- and the many stakeholders it affects -- challenges will remain. EEI and its member companies will continue to work with the states as they develop plans that meet their state energy needs.
"Today utilities are focused on the transition to a cleaner generating fleet. In 2014, utilities reduced carbon dioxide emissions by 15 percent below 2005 levels, and nearly one-third of U.S. power generation came from zero-emissions sources--nuclear and renewables." (EEI)
The power sector will play a vital role as states work with stakeholders to develop compliance plans to achieve the pollution limits for power plants. As attention now turns to this important work in the states, indications are that power companies stand ready to work with the states to meet the climate challenge.
Ben Chou, Water Policy Analyst, Santa Monica, California
As California's drought stretches well into a fourth year, there has been no shortage of news stories suggesting that stronger El Niño conditions expected later this year might help end the drought. But let's not get ahead of ourselves just yet.
While the last strong El Niño we experienced (1997-1998) led to significant flooding in California, the truth is that an El Niño is no guarantee of a wet winter. In fact, we've only seen four strong El Niño events in the past 65 years; two of these featured above-normal precipitation and during the other two, we received below-normal precipitation.
El Niño (El Niño-Southern Oscillation or "ENSO" in climate science jargon) refers to a climatic phenomenon where sea surface temperatures in the western equatorial Pacific are abnormally warm. These warm sea surface temperatures lead to changes in oceanic and atmospheric circulation, which in turn, affect rainfall patterns. The name, which means "Christ child" in Spanish, was coined by Peruvian fishermen, who observed the impact (typically most prominent during the Christmas season) that warm waters off the coast of Peru had on fisheries.
While there has been a slight bias toward above-normal precipitation in Southern California during El Niño (and current winter forecasts are indicating a greater chance of near-normal to above-normal precipitation), there has not been a significant effect observed in Northern California. This is especially sobering given that most of our water supplies originate in the northern half of the state, notably in the form of snowpack.
Yet even if we do see more rain and snow this winter, it may not be enough to end the drought. A new NASA study estimates that California's precipitation deficit is equal to the amount of rain we typically see in a year. Even if we were to miraculously receive that amount of precipitation this winter, it would surely lead to widespread flooding and mudslides and do little to solve the drought crisis that has taken years to develop. Instead, it will take a sustained period of heavy rainfall to replenish our state's depleted groundwater supplies.
This year's El Niño might provide some limited drought relief, but it will not address California's long-term water challenges nor prepare us for future droughts. The current drought is a reminder that we must invest in sustainable local water supplies like stormwater capture, water recycling, and improved irrigation and urban water use efficiency:
- Capturing stormwater using rain barrels and other green infrastructure methods ensures that when it does rain, we are storing the water for future use instead of allowing it to carry harmful pollutants to our waterways and beaches.
- Using recycled water to irrigate landscaping and recharge depleted groundwater reduces demands on potable water supplies, which oftentimes must be transported over long distances.
- Conserving water by removing thirsty lawns that gulp our precious drinking water and replacing inefficient water fixtures in homes and businesses stretches existing water supplies and reduces energy demands associated with treating and transporting water and wastewater.
While El Niño provides a glimmer of hope for our dry and parched state, it will not solve the water woes that the drought has exposed. We must instead make investments in real solutions that improve the reliability of our current water supplies and reduce future risks.
Dylan Sullivan, Staff Scientist, San Francisco
Increasing efforts to save energy in homes and businesses will be critical for power plant owners and states that want to comply with the landmark Clean Power Plan in a cost-effective manner. In earlier analysis, NRDC found that ramping up energy saving efforts to the levels demonstrated in leading states significantly reduces compliance costs.
One change between the proposed version of the rule, released by the Environmental Protection Agency in summer 2014, and the final version, released Monday, was the removal of energy efficiency as a "building block." The emissions-reducing impact of energy efficiency programs was not factored into final power plant carbon pollution limits.
While I could imagine some in the efficiency community disagreeing with EPA's removal, more important than what the agency didn't include is what it did: the agency announced a new program that gives early action credit for energy efficiency programs in low income communities, and EPA detailed the process states and power plant owners must use if they employ energy efficiency to reduce power plant emissions.
Saving energy in low income communities
The Clean Energy Incentive Program will give bonus emission reduction credits to programs that increase energy efficiency in low income communities, whose residents bear a large portion of the pollution burden from fossil fuel-fired power plants. Moreover, low income communities have in the past not received enough attention from utility energy efficiency programs. Under the optional program, energy efficiency programs in low income communities will get double credit for energy savings that occur in 2020 and 2021. These credits will be valuable to power plant owners during the 2022-2030 compliance period, providing a much-needed funding stream for these programs. Some details still need to be worked out, and we will be commenting to EPA on this exciting program.
Start now, or yesterday
The final rule gives states considerable flexibility to design a state plan that reflects their unique circumstances, but regardless of their choices, states, power plant owners, and energy efficiency providers should start increasing efforts to save energy, now. Why? Because anything installed between now and 2030 that is still saving energy in the 2022-2030 compliance period will help power plants cost-effectively meet their carbon pollution limits.
Accounting for energy efficiency in a mass-based plan is easy
If a state chooses a mass-based plan, as the state increases efforts to save energy, it will not have to do anything additional to account for the impact of energy efficiency programs. Instead, the impact of energy efficiency will be felt at its fossil fuel-fired power plants: they will operate less and less carbon pollution will go up the smokestack.
In a rate-based plan, states build on existing processes to account for energy efficiency
If a state chooses a rate-based plan - where fossil fuel-fired power plants have to decrease the amount of carbon pollution that comes out of the smokestack for each unit of energy produced - accounting for energy efficiency will be very important. While total emissions in the state will decline as a result of energy efficiency programs as plants operate less, just like under a mass-based plan, the emissions rate of the power plant will remain unchanged. To invoke another energy sector analogy: even if you drive less, your car's fuel consumption rate - its miles per-gallon - will not change much.
Accounting for energy efficiency in a rate-based plan means producing emission reduction credits that power plant owners use to account for the pollution-free energy provided by energy efficiency. To do this:
- Energy efficiency providers must estimate energy savings using credible methods and employ credible professionals to estimate savings.
- States will then review savings estimates, determine the number of emission reduction credits that should be issued for a project, and issue the credits.
- States must make sure that emission reduction credits meet certain requirements. For example, a state can't issue multiple credits for the same project, and states must ensure that only valid emission reduction credits can be used by power plant owners to reduce their emission rate.
- States must implement a tracking system to provide transparent, accessible, public information about energy saving projects. It is likely that existing systems for tracking renewable energy credits will evolve to implement this function.
EPA has issued draft guidance for states and energy efficiency providers to use in estimating savings. We will be commenting on the guidance, but it generally outlines a robust process for estimating savings, one that builds on the decades of evaluation experience at public utility commissions and utilities themselves.
So get to work
The Clean Power Plan will move America toward a cleaner, healthier environment for future generations while ensuring an ongoing supply of reliable, affordable power, as NRDC describes in its well-referenced resource book.
The final rule gives states, power plant owners, and energy efficiency providers the confidence they need to start ramping up energy efficiency programs now. These programs will save energy long into the future, lowering customer energy bills and reducing power plant carbon pollution.
Zack Strong, Wildlife Advocate, Bozeman, Montana
The following blog was written (in both English and Spanish) by Catherine Schmidt, NRDC's Northern Rockies Ann Clark Environmental Fellow.
On Saturday, July 18, 2,500 miles southeast of the location where Royal Dutch Shell ("Shell") wants to drill for Arctic Ocean oil, 25 protesters waded knee-deep into the Hyalite Reservoir near Bozeman, Montana, brandishing signs that read, "Stop Shell!", "Save the Arctic, Save the Climate," and "Shell No." While half of the group remained in the water, the rest paddled out in drift boats, kayaks, and canoes. All were there for one purpose: to join the national movement erupting in political centers across 17 cities in the U.S.--including Washington, D.C., New York, and Chicago--to oppose Shell's plans to drill for oil in the Chukchi Sea.
25 protesters meet at Hyalite Reservoir in Bozeman, MT on July 18 to say "Shell No!" to Arctic oil drilling. Photo: Catherine Schmidt.
The Bozeman protest, occurring in a chilly lake surrounded by pine tree-covered mountains, resembled the conditions one might find on a summer day in Alaska. It dawned on me, a recent transplant to Bozeman and organizer of the protest, that perhaps it was the sense of familiarity with pristine wilderness that attracted Montanans to protest oil drilling in Alaska on Saturday.
One argument against Arctic offshore drilling is that oil extraction and production threatens the vast biodiversity that calls this region home. Polar bears, Pacific walruses, ringed seals, bowhead whales, loons, and puffins are just a few of the iconic species that inhabit the Chukchi Sea. Offshore development will affect their ability to communicate, travel, and forage--and could even cause serious injury or death. And a major oil spill in their midst would be devastating--for wildlife and local communities alike.
Pacific Walruses are just one of the species that could suffer from an Arctic Ocean oil spill. Photo by USGS on Flickr.
A fact that has been widely circulated regarding Arctic Ocean drilling is the 75% likelihood of a spill of 1,000 gallons or more. And considering Shell's poor reputation with Arctic excavation, there is no reason to believe this probability will decrease. As many scholars have pointed out, clean-up in the Gulf of Mexico was difficult; the calamitous weather of the Arctic would make clean-up there a futile feat. And as many conservationists have observed, the fragile ecosystem is defenseless to this foreign attack.
Though animal rights and wildlife conservation are high priorities of mine, it was the climate implications of producing and burning oil that initially fueled my anti-Shell, anti-drilling drive. Several years ago, "Global Warming's Terrifying New Math" penetrated my young layers of environmentalism, and the numbers 2°C, 565 Gigatons, and 2,795 Gigatons have meant something very different since. The Chukchi Sea contains approximately 12 billion barrels of oil, a quantity that, if burned, would push the atmosphere closer to the 565 Gigatons of carbon dioxide it can sustain before climatic catastrophe.
The economic drawbacks provide yet another reason to object to offshore drilling in the Arctic. Shell has already invested $7 billion into this project and expects to make a larger return. The project, however, still demands billions of taxpayer dollars to cover, among other things, the construction of safeguards such as U.S. Coast Guard icebreakers, deep water Arctic ports, and oil spill recovery technology and training programs.
Finally, underlying every author's, journalist's, protester's, and everyday citizen's economic, climate, and conservation arguments opposing Arctic Ocean oil drilling, there is one universal element: the human perspective. This includes local fishermen, families, and the Inupiat native peoples that inhabit the northernmost regions of the United States and the potential damage Arctic drilling poses to their livelihoods, economies, culture, and health.
For example, some indigenous tribes along the Alaskan North Slope maintain their cultural practices through an annual bowhead whale hunt, which provides a year's supply of meat. An Arctic oil spill would terminate both the hunt and the cultural wisdom passed down and practiced during this event. And, just recently, some Unalaskan residents have taken a stand by protesting, "Fish Yes! Shell No!" outside the Dutch Harbor port.
Even if Shell's operation goes smoothly (which it won't), the carbon emissions from burning Arctic Ocean oil exceeds what our atmosphere can handle. And when a spill occurs, it will be nearly impossible to clean up due to weather conditions, ocean conditions, remoteness, lack of infrastructure, etc. Following a spill, ocean currents will spread the oil around the world, affecting us all.
Drilling in the Arctic is dangerous, expensive, and detrimental to the planet. Please join the movement today and shout, "Shell No!"
In the interest of emphasizing the widespread and vast impacts of an oil spill, I have written this blog post into Spanish, with the hopes of reaching a larger and more diverse audience.
Saving Shell's stranded Arctic oil rig in January 2012. Photo by Arctic Warrior on Flickr.
Razones por qué dije "No a la Shell!" y tu debes decirlo tambien
El sábado, 18 de julio de 2015, 25 manifestantes se reunieron en el Embalse Hyalite cerca de Bozeman, Montana- un lugar que está a 2,500 millas al sur del Océano Ártico donde la Royal Dutch Shell quiere perforar para extraer petróleo. El grupo remó en kayaks, canoas, y botes o vadeó por el lago para subir afiches que leían, "!Paremos a la Shell!", "Salvemos el Ártico, salvemos el clima", y "No a la Shell". Todos vinieron por una razón: para unirse al movimiento nacional que en este día emergía en centros políticos a través de 17 ciudades de los Estados Unidos- como Washington, D.C., Nueva York y Chicago- para oponerse a los planes de perforación petrolera de Shell en el Mar Chukchi.
Con un lago frio al lado de montañas cubiertas de pinos, la protesta de Bozeman se parecía a las condiciones de un día de verano en Alaska. Me di cuenta, yo una recién llegada a Bozeman y la organizadora de la protesta, que quizás era la familiaridad con una naturaleza prístina lo que motivaba a los montanos a luchar contra la perforación de petróleo en Alaska en un sábado.
Una de las razones contra la excavación petrolera en el Ártico es que la extracción y la producción de petróleo amenazarían a la vasta biodiversidad que llama a esta región su hogar. Tales como osos polares, morsas del Pacífico, focas anilladas y ballenas de Groenlandia, somorgujos y frailecillos son ejemplos de los especies icónicas que habitan el Mar Chukchi. El fomento petrolero en alta mar afectará la capacidad para comunicarse, viajar, y buscar comida- además puede causar graves heridas o la muerte. Un derrame de petróleo en su medioambiente sería devastador tanto para la vida silvestre y comunidades aledañas.
Una estadística que se ha distribuido ampliamente sobre la perforación del Océano Árctico es la probabilidad de un 75 por ciento de un derrame de más que 1,000 galones. Al considerar la mala reputación de Shell con respecto a la excavación Ártica, no existe ninguna razón para creer que esta probabilidad vaya a disminuir. Como muchos eruditos señalan, fue difícil limpiar el Golfo de México; con el calamitoso clima del Ártico el proceso de limpiar sería una proeza vana. Y como muchos conservacionistas señalan, el frágil ecosistema está indefenso para este ataque extranjero.
Aunque mis prioridades incluyen los derechos de los animales y la conservación de la fauna, son las implicaciones para el clima al producir y quemar petróleo lo que al principio avivó mi impulso contra Shell y contra la perforación. Hace algunos años el artículo "Global Warming's Terrifying New Math" penetró mis capas de ecologismo, y ahora los números 2°C, 565 giga toneladas, y 2,795 giga toneladas significan algo muy importante para mí. El Mar Chukchi contiene casi 12 giga toneladas de petróleo, una cantidad que si se quema, pondrá a la atmosfera más cerca de las 565 giga toneladas de dióxido de carbono que puede sostener antes de una catástrofe climática.
Las desventajas económicas proveen otras razones para objetar la excavación petrolera en el Ártico. Shell ha invertido $7 mil millones en el proyecto y espera una ganancia mayor. Aunque, el proyecto todavía demanda mil millones de dólares de los contribuyentes para cubrir la construcción de salvaguardas, como los barcos rompehielos para los guardacostas estadounidenses, puertos árticos en alta mar, y tecnología y programas de entrenamiento para recuperación de derrame de petróleo.
Finalmente, el problema básico de cada escritor, periodista, manifestante, ciudadano, de las discusiones climáticas, económicas y de conservación en contra de la perforación de petróleo es un elemento universal: la perspectiva humana. Esta incluye los pescadores y las familias locales, y los pueblos originarios, los Inupiat que residen en las regiones más norte del país y el daño potencial que la perforación ártica representa para su subsistencia, economía, cultura, y salud.
Por ejemplo, algunas tribus indígenas cerca de la Ladera Norte de Alaska mantienen sus prácticas culturales por una caza anual de ballenas de Groenlandia, que provee un suministro de carne para un año. Un derrame de petróleo en el Ártico terminaría con la caza además de la sabiduría cultural que es dejada en herencia y practicada durante este evento. Recientemente, algunos residentes de Unalaska tomaron una posición de protesta de, "¡No a la Shell!" afuera del puerto de Dutch Harbor.
Aun si el funcionamiento de Shell transcurre sin contratiempos (que no sucederá), las emisiones de carbono al quemar el petróleo ártico superarán lo que nuestra atmosfera puede soportar. Cuando un derrame ocurra será casi imposible limpiarlo debido a las condiciones meteorológicas, las condiciones del océano, la lejanía, la falta de infraestructura, etc. Tras un derrame las corrientes del océano difundirán el petróleo alrededor del mundo, afectándonos a todos.
Perforación en la Árctica es peligrosa, cara, y perjudicial al planeta. Por favor se junte con el movimiento hoy día y grite, "Shell no!"
Latin America Green News: Brazil breaks wind energy record, Mexico planning geothermal energy expansion, Colombia's orchids under threat of extinction
Maria Martinez, Program Assistant, Director of Programs & Latin America Project, Washington, D.C.
Latin America Green News is a selection of weekly news highlights about environmental and energy issues in Latin America.
August 1st - August 7th, 2015
State representatives unanimously passed the "Law for Action Against Climate Change" in the Mexican state of Jalisco. The law will broadly regulate greenhouse gas emissions by defining principles, criteria and instruments for the implementation of state policy on climate change. It also seeks to improve public transportation and reduce air pollution in the state. Furthermore, the law contains a deadline for the creation of a state environmental resource fund to be used to pay for land whose benefits are the generation of environmental services. An 8-month transition period will begin after the law is officially published to provide time for the allocation of resources and the development of necessary institutional structures after which the law will be enacted. (El Informador, 8/4/2015)
One of Chile's most popular tourist destinations, Puerto Varas, has signed a plan to become the country's first carbon neutral city. The Clean Production Agreement aims to promote energy efficiency and competition in energy generation to make Puerto Varas a destination for sustainable tourism. Over the course of 18 months, 30 small-medium enterprises will closely monitor and reduce their greenhouse emissions. Executive Director of the National Clean Production Council, Juan Ladron de Guevara, praises the agreement saying it's "an effort to make the entire supply chain of tourism more sustainable." (El Dinamo, 8/5/2015)
Orchids in the Valle del Cauca, one of the most popular states in Colombia, are on the verge of extinction due to climate change. According to a study by the University of Valle del Cauca, orchids are particularly susceptible to changes in pressure and temperature, two things which are linked to climate change. Botany Biologist Guillermo Reina-Rodriguez explains that at this point orchids have three options: adapt to the changing climate as they have historically, migrate, or go extinct. The study suggests that migration is possible since more favorable conditions for the orchids exist at altitudes between 1200 and 1400 meters. Equally concerning, the study also found evidence that almost the entirety of the dry forest found in the Valley of Cauca has been deforested and that only two percent of the original woodlands remain. (El Pais, 8/6/2015)
In an effort to curb deforestation rates, a group of Mexican researchers have developed "liquid wood" as an alternate to wood. Made from sawdust, polyester (PET), and widely used resin called high density polyethylene (HPDE), the product is lightweight, resistant to wear and highly moldable. The project was developed out of a call for products to avoid the use of pinewood by the Guanajuato Chamber of Construction. Although initial reactions from potential clients were tepid because of the material's plastic appearance, the product shows promise as a base for fine furniture. (El Universal, 8/5/2015)
Brazil broke record last month when its wind energy sector produced an astounding 2,982 MW of energy in a single day, enough to fulfill the needs of an estimated 13 million people. Wind power in Brazil has grown by 179 percent in the past year and now represents 3.5 percent of the nation's total energy matrix. Through the Ten Year Energy Plan (PDE 2023) released last year, Brazil hopes to increase wind energy presence in the national energy matrix to 11 percent over the course of the next eight years and increase overall renewable energy presence in the energy matrix to 83 percent by 2023. (REVE, 8/4/2015)
The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) has approved USD $14.4 million in funding for an energy efficiency and renewable energy in living spaces project in Argentina. The project hopes to both reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve the quality of life of families through the establishment of new standards and technical specifications for the construction of energy efficient social housing. Alberto Levy, head of the IDB project team, said "there is no precedent for actions of this size and scope in Latin America." The project calls for the construction of 128 prototype homes in eight different climate bioclimatic zones that will incorporate renewable energy and have low greenhouse gas emissions. (Inter-American Development Bank, 7/30/2015)
The Mexican Energy Ministry (SENER) announced that indigenous communities in Oaxaca have approved the construction and operation of a wind power plant. The project consists of 132 turbines and a total capacity of 396 MW and will require an investment of approximately US$888.9 million. Community approval of the project came after eight months of mediation and consultation from a joint commission of government officials from the state and municipal authorities. The wind power company responsible for the project, Energía Eólica del Sur, has committed to creating a trust to allocate resources that will reduce of the cost of electricity within the community. (Ecoticias, 8/5/2015)
After announcing the decision to double existing prospective resources in geothermal energy by 2018, the Mexican Federal Electricity Commissions (CFE) held a "Round Zero" meeting this past month to select field concessions. Since the meeting, news has surfaced that Grupo Dragón has entered into conversations with the Federal Electricity Commission (CFE) to discuss the development of geothermal energy in these fields. "Round One" will begin later this month as private companies bid for 30-year concessions to the remaining geothermal fields in the country. (El Financiero, 8/3/2015 and El Economista, 5/19/2015)
This week's blog was completed with the help of contributions from Carlos Gould.
Sharon Buccino, Director, Land Program, Washington, DC
"If future generations are to remember us with gratitude rather than contempt, we must leave them something more than the miracles of technology. We must leave them a glimpse of the world as it was in the beginning, not just after we got through with it."
-Lyndon B. Johnson
President Johnson signed the Wilderness Act in 1964 to combat the threat of "expanding settlement and growing mechanization" to our country's natural spaces. In 1965, LBJ was the first American president to acknowledge climate change, warning that we have "altered the composition of the atmosphere on a global scale through... a steady increase in carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels." Fifty years ago, science wasn't able to fully comprehend the threat that carbon pollution posed to our climate and society, but our understanding has advanced significantly since. To earn our children's gratitude, we must act on this knowledge. President Obama took a significant step in the right direction this week.
In some ways, the EPA's Clean Power Plan can be seen as a successor to the Wilderness Act. The Clean Power Plan sets carbon emission limits for each state that encourage electricity generation in ways that reduce global warming. We won't stabilize the climate overnight, but at least we'll be contributing to the solution rather than making the problem worse. Like Johnson, President Obama has a vision for a secure and vibrant future and has acted to make his vision real.
Left unchecked, climate change will render our landscape unrecognizable. The glaciers of Montana and Alaska are already well on their way to melting. Permafrost will thaw. Coastal reserves will be engulfed by the rising oceans. Deserts will expand. Habitat will become inhospitable and many wildlife species will be unable to move to something that keeps them alive. The National Park Service considers climate change its "greatest challenge." Climate change is devaluing many of its assets. These are our assets too.
As someone who has worked so long to protect our land and wildlife, I am excited about the ways our work matters to the President's Clean Power Plan:
- NRDC is working with the Department of the Interior to site solar, wind and geothermal projects on public lands in a way that minimizes the environmental damage.
- NRDC is working with the Department of the Interior to reduce the waste of natural gas from flaring and leaks where it is drilled.
- NRDC is working with the Department of the Interior to increase the amount companies pay to mine coal on public lands.
I am also excited about how the Clean Power Plan matters to NRDC's land and wildlife work:
- The wildlife - like the grizzlies and wolves - NRDC is working to protect in Montana and Wyoming will benefit from the plan's carbon reductions.
- The clean renewable energy projects that NRDC is working to promote will have a market as states look for energy solutions without carbon emissions.
- The forests that NRDC works to protect will be less likely to burn from catastrophic fires.
- The streams on which trout depend will remain suitable for them and the economies which depend on them to thrive.
- The ice on which Pacific walruses depend will be more likely to stay around.
Next week, I am heading to the Bob Marshall Wilderness in Montana. Bob Marshall was one of many who worked for years to make the Wilderness Act a reality. The Wilderness Act won't mean much though, if we don't act now to address climate change. My 16-year-old daughter will be with me. I am glad that I can point to President Obama's action this week to show her that some leaders care about the world we are leaving her. My hope is that enough will follow the President's lead so that my daughter will look back on her parents' generation with gratitude - not contempt.
INDIA GREEN NEWS: $50 Million Green Bond for Clean Energy; About 35k Solar Water Pumps Installed; Temperatures Rise in India
Sameer Kwatra, India Energy and Climate Policy Analyst, Washington, D.C.
India Green News is a selection of news highlights about environmental and energy issues in India.
Week of August 1 -7, 2015
Compiled by Ariel Cooper
ENERGYYes Bank raises close to $50 million green bond
MUMBAI: India's private sector lender, Yes Bank has raised $ 49.2 mn or Rs 315 crore from by International Finance Corporation, the private sector financing arm of the World Bank. The funds are raised for a term of 10 years at 8.95%.
A statement issued by IFC said that Yes Bank will invest the proceeds from these bonds in energy efficiency projects and renewable energy projects mainly in the solar and wind sectors.
"Addressing climate change is a priority for IFC in India, and the green 'masala bond' demonstrates the powerful role of capital markets in mobilizing international savings to help close the climate finance gap," said Jingdong Hua, IFC Vice President and Treasurer....
(Economic Times - August 4, 2015)
As many as 34,941 solar water pumps have been installed so far in the country as against the 1,38,267 sanctioned , Parliament was informed today.
"A total of 1,38,267 solar pumps have been sanctioned throughout the country and 34,941 pumps have been installed," New and Renewable Energy Minister Piyush Goyal said in a written reply to Rajya Sabha.
Goyal said that the ministry has issued supplementary guidelines for one lakh solar pumps during 2014-15 fiscal and Rs 353.50 crore was released to various agencies....
(Business Standard - August 3, 2015)
CLIMATE CHANGEEnvironment, Climate Change Pose Great Challenges, Says President Pranab Mukherjee
New Delhi: Environment and climate change are the most important issues and pose great challenges that need to be collectively responded to by people else their existence might be in danger, President Pranab Mukherjee said in Delhi today.
Addressing a group of probationers of Indian Forest Service (2014 Batch), he said practical and innovative solutions are to be found for forming policies and solving problems which they will be confronting.
He said that in today's world, environment and climate change are most important issues and pose great challenges....
(NDTV - August 3, 2015)Mean temperature in India has risen by 0.6 degree Celsius in last 110 years: Government
NEW DELHI: With the mercury rising across the globe due to warming of the planet, mean temperature in India has increased by 0.6 degree Celsius over the last 110 years, the government today said.
Heatwave and Severe Heat Wave were also recorded more in the last decade as compared to last four decades and the phenomenon was "abnormally" high in 2015, which witnessed 2,037 deaths across the country....
(Economic Times - August 5, 2015)
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH & GOVERNANCEAction soon against industrial units polluting Ganga: Govt
NEW DELHI: Government has asked the pollution control boards to initiate action against industrial units discharging contaminated effluents in river Ganga, Union Minister Uma Bharti informed Lok Sabha on Thursday.
She said the government has asked the pollution control boards to initiate action against such industrial units, in a bid to stop untreated water from flowing into the Ganga.
During the question hour, the water resources, river development and ganga rejuvenation minister said her ministry would soon finalise a plan in this regard and send it to the cabinet for approval....
(Times of India - Aug 6, 2015)Indian Railways to become greener with clean energy initiative
New Delhi: Describing the railways as a naturally green mode of transport, Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu on Tuesday said the sector is looking to become "greener" by adopting renewables as a major source of energy.
"Railway is naturally a green mode of transport...we want to make it further greener by adopting renewable energy as a major source of energy for railways," Prabhu said while addressing a conference here on solar energy opportunities in the rail sector.
"Indian Railways is the single biggest consumer of energy and hence it is imperative that railways must look towards alternative sources of energy," he said....
(Hans India - August 5, 2015)
Note: The linked articles and excerpts in this post are provided for informational purposes only and do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of the India Initiative or of the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Aliya Haq, Climate Change Special Projects Director, Washington, D.C.
Legislators from states all over America gathered in Seattle this week, and climate change was at the top of the agenda. The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), the largest non-partisan organization supporting state legislators, hosted the four day summit to explore the wide variety of issues that confront states. On Tuesday, lawmakers from around the country and across the political spectrum renewed NCSL's Climate Change Policy Resolution, which encourages a flexible, regionally-accessible federal climate plan with clear, achievable goals. It is heartening to see such a large gathering of state legislators embracing this kind of action on climate. It is especially great timing considering America's bold, historic step this week to tackle carbon pollution from power plants - a big topic of discussion for lawmakers at the conference.
The Clean Power Plan, released by President Obama on Monday, is one of the biggest steps we've taken as a country to address climate change. It will cut carbon pollution from power plants by 32 percent below 2005 levels in 2030, make the air safer to breath, and help protect future generations from climate disasters. The EPA projects that in 2030, the Clean Power Plan will avoid up to 3,600 premature deaths, 90,000 asthma attacks in children, and 1,700 hospital admissions. Plus the new standards are expected to generate thousands of homegrown jobs and, by 2030, will save the typical household about $85 every year on electricity bills. The Clean Power Plan is also backed by strong bipartisan support to limit carbon emissions from power plants. An ABC/Washington Post poll found that 70 percent of all Americans back federal efforts to reduce climate change pollution, and an AP/Yale University survey reported that half of all Republicans favor limits on carbon pollution.
The Clean Power Plan puts states in the driver's seat to decide how to reduce carbon pollution - governors need to submit initial plans to the US Environmental Protection Agency in September 2016. There are some key roles for legislators to assist governors as they chart a new clean energy future. A good first step for legislators is raising their voices in support of the Clean Power Plan, as many governors have already done. For example, Gov. Hassan of New Hampshire is looking forward to "continuing to build on our efforts to ensure a cleaner and healthier environment." Gov. Hickenlooper of Colorado declared that "Clean air is important is important to all of Colorado and building on the work that's already done, we will continue on the path of improving our local air quality." Gov. Wolf of Pennsylvania "is committed to making the Clean Power Plan work for Pennsylvania." Lawmakers have already started down this path through approval of the NCSL resolution.
Legislators will also play an important role in supporting state-specific policies that will boost renewable energy development and adoption of energy efficiency in their states. In Illinois for example, more than 85 state lawmakers along with more than 150 business leaders and other groups have banded together to urge passage of the Illinois Clean Jobs Bill - legislation that would ready the state for the Clean Power Plan by adopting a mass-based cap on emissions, boosting the share of power coming from renewable sources to 35% by 2030 and cutting energy waste by 20% through expanded energy efficiency programs. Clean energy standards in states are an important complement to a governor's state plan to reduce carbon pollution.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, legislators can vote down bills aiming to interfere with states' ability to move forward on the Clean Power Plan. Some proposed legislation would create red tape to delay or block state carbon plans; others would handcuff governors and prop up the coal industry while hamstringing investment in renewable energy and energy efficiency. Legislators should avoid adding red tape and delays to the state planning process, and keep all options on the table for cleaning up carbon pollution. The Clean Power Plan provides ample flexibility to meet pollution limits, and legislators should ensure the state can take full advantage of those benefits.
By embracing climate action, as their latest resolution does, legislators can return home with the satisfaction of being on the right path. Lawmakers should encourage governors to act early and start reaping the benefits of the Clean Power Plan as soon as possible. With states taking the lead on climate solutions and clean energy, we have the chance to shield the next generation from climate change.
Pete Altman, Climate and Clean Air Campaign Director, Washington, D.C.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) launched its final version of the Clean Power Plan this week ... and the reviews are in from America's editorial boards. By my review through Thursday morning, the count was 39-6 in favor of the federal plan to reduce carbon pollution and related ill health effects.
From America's largest newspapers - including the New York Times, USA Today, and Los Angeles Times - to some of the smallest U.S. dailies - including the Missoulian, Anniston Star, and Battle Creek Enquirer - the message is clear: The EPA got it right.
So many editorials have been written to date that we even know the answer to the proverbial question: "How is it playing in Peoria?"
In its editorial, the Peoria Journal-Star wrote:
It's important to keep that in mind regarding President Obama's Clean Power Plan, which would require states to cut their carbon dioxide emissions by 32 percent from 2005 levels by 2030, among other ambitious benchmarks. Reminiscent of the legal challenges prompted by the Affordable Care Act -- ultimately to little avail -- opponents consisting mostly of coal lobbyists and GOP strategists are gearing up to go to war, in fact were well before they even knew what the White House influenced by 'radical bureaucrats' would do. We've seen it all before.
On the national level, the New York Times editorial put the Clean Power Plan into its proper perspective:
President Obama's Clean Power Plan, announced on Monday, is unquestionably the most important step the administration has taken in the fight against climate change.
Noting that action is needed now, the editorial page writers at USA Today concluded that further inaction on Capitol Hill cannot be allowed to rule the day:
In the face of congressional gridlock, Obama's plan, the final version of a proposal he first made in June 2014, represents the next best way to change the energy mix at home and demonstrate U.S. seriousness ahead of global climate talks later this year in Paris.
Is this our last shot at getting it right? That may be the case, according to this editorial in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
In short, this doesn't have to be the economic doomsday scenario portrayed by congressional Republicans who have vowed to try to block the Clean Power Plan. Modest, affordable steps can make a difference. New jobs can be created in renewable energy fields. Or we can pander and stall, and present the grandchildren with a real doomsday scenario.
Cooler heads should prevail on Clean Power Plan" was the title of the Des Moines Register editorial that started out this way:
If you enjoyed the battle over Obamacare, you will love the coming battle over the president's Clean Power Plan announced Monday. At least that is the impression you might get from the reaction of some politicians and die-hard defenders of the coal industry. Members of Congress vow to block the new rules and opponents threaten to go to court challenge the Environmental Protection Agency's legal authority to require reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, the battle over the Clean Power Plan is unlikely to be as furious as the one set off by the Affordable Care Act. That's because it would not be nearly as disruptive to the power industry as the critics would suggest. In fact, the proposed carbon dioxide reductions will not require dramatic changes, and many states, including Iowa, are already on track to comply.
The Kansas City Star emphasized the importance of the Clean Power Plan and dismissed its detractors, saying:
President Barack Obama's newly announced Clean Power Plan is a big step forward for a nation that needs to reduce harmful carbon-dioxide emissions from power plants...
On Monday, Obama's proposal predictably was derided as part of his "war on coal," with claims that he had a "lack of empathy for hard working Americans across the country." That last statement came from the euphemistically named American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity.
Obama deftly turned aside such criticism. Innovative American industries, he noted, have produced vehicles that are more efficient and pollute less, despite initial dire threats that it wasn't possible to do that. U.S. utilities have slashed other dangerous pollutants in the past, he accurately pointed out, often at far lower costs than first predicted.
The Toledo Blade's editorial "Give clean energy a chance" also called out Clean Power Plan opponents and chastised them for offering no alternatives for tackling carbon pollution:
Before the ink had dried on the Obama Administration's new plan to limit power plant emissions, business interests and their political allies began gearing up for legal challenges to the rules. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) calls the plan a job killer and is urging states to refuse to cooperate. Energy lobbies say it is radical and unattainable. But compared to the scale of human-created climate change, the plan is modest, and anti-regulatory politicians offer no credible alternatives. They need to give it a chance to work ... Together with the Obama Administration's vehicle emissions standards, the Clean Power Plan marks the most serious step any administration has taken to combat climate change. Fossil-fuel lobbies complain that regulation harms their business interests, but fail to explain how to address the life-threatening effects of climate change without it. What's their alternative?
Want to read more? Check out these additional editorials:
- Despite shortcomings, Mr. Obama's Clean Power Plan sets an important example (Washington Post editorial)
- Obama's Clean Energy Plan doesn't go far enough (Los Angeles Times editorial)
- Obama is right to focus on climate change (San Francisco Chronicle editorial)
- Reversing the tide on climate change (Chicago Tribune editorial)
- Revised power plan a mixed bag (Denver Post editorial)
- Why conservatives can embrace Obama's good plan for bad air (Dallas Morning News Editorial)
- Acting nationally is right way to fight global climate change (Los Angeles Daily News editorial)
- Obama charts more robust effort to fight climate change (Tampa Bay Times editorial)
- Obama Clean Power Plan tops any GOP effort (Salt Lake Tribune editorial)
- The Climate Change Threat (The Nation editorial)
- EPA's Clean Power Plan promotes the health of people and the planet (Raleigh News & Observer editorial)
- Take a lesson from California, quit coal (Sacramento Bee editorial)
- Better fuels than fossils (Philadelphia Inquirer editorial)
- Obama's power plant rules can work (Baltimore Sun editorial)
- President Obama's Clean Power Plan has the right priorities: Use less coal, clean up the air (Kansas City Star editorial)
- Hot air in defense of big coal (Virginian-Pilot editorial)
- Reaching for the sun just got more expensive (Arizona Republic editorial)
- EPA's Clean Power Plan still costly but more realistic (Arizona Republic editorial)
- Obama puts climate change on nation's political agenda (Detroit Free Press editorial)
- Obama's Clean Power Plan is good for the planet, good for public health (Star Tribune editorial)
- EPA rules are reasonable (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel editorial)
- New Clean Power Plan takes lead on climate change (Mass Live editorial)
- Scott Walker is just plain wrong about the Clean Power Plan (Capital Times editorial)
- Clean Power Plan breath of fresh air (Asbury Park Press editorial)
- How should Virginia meet its carbon goals? (Richmond Times Dispatch editorial)
- Clean Power Plan will help us breathe easier (Portland Press Herald editorial)
- Give clean power a chance (Toledo Blade editorial)
- Framework for clean power (Akron Beacon Journal editorial)
- Expect legal fight over carbon plan (Delaware Online editorial)
- A power plan with teeth (The Trentonian editorial)
- Seize opportunities in Clean Power Plan (Missoulian editorial)
- Clean Power Plan good for planet, health (Battle Creek Enquirer editorial)
- Obama and the pipeline (Roanoke Business Times editorial)
Surely much more will be written about the Clean Power Plan. But it is satisfying to see so many of our nation's editorial writers celebrating the Clean Power Plan, affirming the need to take action on climate, recognizing the opportunities inherent in cutting carbon, and calling out the detractors in the coal and Congressional lobbies.
Sami Yassa, Senior Scientist, Director of NRDC’s Markets Initiative, San Francisco
The EPA's final Clean Power Plan is a game-changer. It's an unprecedented turning point in the fight to combat climate change, and an enormous step against the central environmental crisis of our time. The Plan puts energy efficiency and renewable energy front and center as the path to meeting targets for carbon pollution reductions. That means that we have an opportunity to replace the need for coal and natural gas with renewables, and reap the economic benefits of clean energy. Read more from my colleague Susan Casey Lefkowitz at: http://on.nrdc.org/1K5rwA7
Some of the power plants affected by the new standards could burn not just coal, but a mix of coal and biomass. Others being built would burn only biomass fuel. Ignoring the carbon emissions from biomass risks compromising the very goals the President set forth. In could mean we clamp down on carbon pollution from burning coal, but end up increasing carbon emissions from burning our forests.
So we were gratified to see that EPA has definitively established that not all biomass is "carbon neutral," rejecting industry pressure to give all biomass burning in power plants a free pass, and acknowledging the science that shows that different forms of biomass fuel have varying carbon impacts. The claim that all forms of biomass are categorically carbon neutral is a myth, and it's time to put that specious argument behind us.
The EPA has adopted an approach under which states would submit their plans to use "qualifying biomass" - defined by the agency as a biomass feedstock that is demonstrated as a method to control increases of CO2 levels in the atmosphere. Unfortunately, EPA does not provide a robust set of criteria in this rule for what constitutes "qualifying" biomass and leaves undefined the standard to "control increases of CO2 levels." Instead the EPA has left it to the states to analyze and assess carbon benefits of different biomass feedstocks.
It will be essential that any emissions reductions credited to biomass-burning be additional from the perspective of the atmosphere -- i.e. they must be above and beyond what would have happened absent bioenergy. Second, carbon sequestration used to offset the emissions of a biomass-burning facility must be achieved not in some distant future, but within a very short timeframe relevant to those emissions and the Administration's commitments to reducing national greenhouse gas emissions.
The EPA will need to make these determinations in its approval/disapproval decisions on state plans; the agency would give guidance and certainty to all parties if it provided these standards expressly in the final Federal Implementation Plan.
While the final CPP rule does not set forth a rigorous accounting structure as we had hoped, it does require a very robust level of documentation and tracking of states' proposed qualified biomass, requiring that the carbon benefits be quantifiable, verifiable, non-duplicative, permanent and enforceable with respect to each power plant. This includes a requirement for tracking and auditing approaches for qualified biomass feedstocks.
Foremost, in this rule EPA has signaled that it has concerns about biomass, and has made clear that they will be assessing the any purported benefits on a case-by-case basis in the SIPS, requiring a high standard of proof and verification.
NRDC has information related to the Clean Power Plan here, including our detailed resource book entitled "Clean Power: The Case for Carbon Pollution Limits."
Nathanael Greene, Director of Renewable Energy Policy, New York City
Want to know some even more good news about the Clean Power Plan to cut dangerous carbon pollution from the nation's power plants that President Obama announced on Monday?
Thanks to the fast-dropping price of wind and solar power, and some smart ideas about how to further jumpstart clean energy development here in the US, the plan will bring online much more clean energy than the EPA originally projected in the draft plan it released last summer. That draft had already set the CPP up to be a major driver of clean energy development across the United States. Now, it's poised to do even more, and, importantly, to prioritize clean energy over polluting natural gas. In fact, in 2030, the final plan will likely result in as many as 207,000 gigawatt hours of clean power from sources like wind, solar, and geothermal, above today's levels. That's enough to power 19 million homes. Of course, with more clean energy comes more good jobs, cleaner air for our kids to breathe, and lower energy bills for families and businesses. So, really, on top of the climate protection, there's a lot to like.
The Clean Power Plan will serve as a major driver of clean-energy development, helping to create hundreds of thousands of new jobs, like these in the fast-growing solar sector. (Photo Credit: Lexey Swall)
How are these big numbers possible? Well, as we've already seen in states and cities buttressed by renewable energy standards and other clean-energy goals, putting the right policies in place gives investors and project developers the confidence they need to move forward with zero-emissions electricity projects. Many of those projects, in turn, are delivering electricity at eye-poppingly low prices--lower even than natural-gas--meaning clean power can further help consumers save money on our energy bills. (A new Nevada solar project, for instance, will sell electricity to a local utility for a mind-blowing 3.87 cents a kilowatt hour.)
The Clean Power Plan won't just boost the amount of clean energy we generate in the United States. The final standard will also bring more wind and solar power online faster, even before the CPP compliance period begins in 2022, thanks to the Clean Energy Incentive Program included in the final plan. The CEIP is specifically designed to reward an early transition to wind and solar power and, importantly, to promote energy efficiency in low-income communities. By the way, lest anyone think the EPA is mandating that states or utilities to use cost-effective clean energy to meet their emissions-reduction targets, it's worth noting that the program is entirely voluntary.
How does it all work?
Well, the effort depends largely on a market mechanism that states can opt into--again, if they want to. Once states that choose to participate file their final state implementation plans, due in September 2018, new renewable energy projects that begin construction after the plan is filed and deliver power in 2020 and 2021 can participate. They'll earn tradable Emission Rate Credits, which they can in turn sell to power plants or utilities to use meet compliance standards from 2022 through 2030. For each megawatt hour of renewable energy generated, developers will earn one credit. These credits are also bankable, so developers can use them to help power plants meet pollution limits any time they want to during the 2022-2030 compliance period. (Low-income efficiency projects that go into operation after the filing and deliver energy savings in 2020 or 2021 can get 2 credits for every megawatt hour of avoided generation.)
If all that wonky stuff makes your eyes glaze over, just remember this: The market mechanism in the CEIP will generate billions of dollars of additional support that developers can use to build clean energy projects. And that, in turn, can help further drive down the already low costs of clean energy, by speeding economies of scale and spurring investment in new technologies.
Of course, we can help make clean energy an even more attractive compliance option by urging our representatives in Congress to extend several vital policies that have driven clean energy growth and all the good stuff that comes with it. These include the now-expired Production Tax Credit for wind power and the Investment Tax Credit for offshore wind power, along with the 30 percent federal investment tax credit for solar power, which will drop to 10 percent at the end of 2016.
We can also encourage our state leaders to support the use of clean energy in meeting pollution standards. These options, which create new jobs, protect our health, and save us money on our energy bills, are a bullseye, to be sure.
Now, a quick observation about the use of biomass to meet CPP standards. It's worth noting that the CEIP specifically supports wind and solar power, and doesn't apply to more complicated and potentially problematic sources like biomass. While the CPP biomass standards offer some safeguards that forests won't be used as fuel in ways that are dangerous both to our climate and to the valuable forest ecosystems on which we all depend, the standards are more of a mixed bag. My colleague Sami Yassa will write more about them soon.
Pierre Delforge, Director, High Tech Sector Energy Efficiency, San Francisco
A long-awaited revised proposal for energy efficiency standards for the millions of products with rechargeable batteries sold annually in the United States -- which include everything from cell phones and power tools, to laptops and even golf carts -- was announced this week.
In most cases, battery charger systems are not separate devices from the products they charge, but are part of them. This regulation covers the battery-charging energy use but does not set minimum standards for the rest of the energy use of the product, such as the power consumption of a laptop while operating.
Together, the standards already in effect for these products in California and Oregon, and these new proposed federal standards that would extend them to the rest of the nation, have the potential to save consumers more than $2 billion off their utility bills and avoid 12 million metric tons of carbon pollution annually.
Roughly 400 million battery chargers are sold annually in the United States, according to DOE's latest analysis, and NRDC estimates there are more than one billion currently in use in the nation. Given the ever-increasing proliferation of rechargeable gadgets in our lives, driven in large part by the falling prices and longer life of rechargeable batteries, these figures are likely to continue to grow.
It was especially timely for DOE to announce this proposal during the same week that President Obama announced the final Clean Power Plan to slash carbon pollution from the power plants generating America's electricity. Meanwhile, DOE also proposed an efficiency standard update for beverage vending machines. My colleague, Elizabeth Noll, blogs about that here.
The battery chargers proposal is good news all round. None of us want to feel that the gadgets we've come to rely on for recreation and business are wasting energy, causing lots of unnecessary harmful power plant pollution which impacts our health and our environment (and increases our utility bills).
But the fact is that many of them are using far more energy than they actually need. These range from chargers that continue to charge even after the battery is full; to those that get so hot that they waste almost twice as much energy in unnecessary heat as is actually stored in a battery. There are also chargers that continue to draw energy while they're plugged in even though they're not connected to a battery.
Under the new rules, allowed energy levels will require the use of best-practices already required by California energy efficiency standards, ensuring that wasteful designs are upgraded for all products sold in the country.
These standards have been a challenge. California adopted its own efficiency standards for battery chargers in 2012, followed in 2014 by Oregon. While technically only applying to chargers sold within the two states, California and Oregon are home to one in nearly seven consumers in the country. Therefore, these standards caused manufacturers to redesign most of the products sold throughout the United States (up to 95 percent per DOE's estimate) rather than maintain separate inventories for the rest of the country, which had a significant impact on chargers sold in America.
The DOE's initial proposal for federal battery charger standards in March 2012 was developed in parallel with California's and had not taken into account the impact that California's standards would have on the market. DOE's proposal was also less stringent. This meant that if DOE had adopted its initial proposal, which would have automatically pre-empted state standards, it would in effect have relaxed California's de facto standards, resulting in a potentially significant increase in energy consumption in the country!
After this initial setback, the DOE changed tack. The 2012 proposals had covered both battery chargers (BCS) and external power supplies (EPS), which are those little black boxes at the end of the power cord of many small electronic devices and convert household electric current to lower voltages. The DOE followed NRDC's recommendation and separated battery chargers and external power supplies into two rulemakings. The EPS standards were duly adopted - and are due to go into effect in February 2016 - and the DOE went back to the drawing board on the battery chargers analysis.
That diligence has now paid off. Our preliminary analysis indicates that DOE's revised proposal is roughly equivalent to California's and Oregon's standards. If confirmed after due analysis of DOE's Technical Support Document expected to be published shortly, this will lock in and extend the financial, health, and environmental benefits driven by the original state standards by ensuring that ALL products with rechargeable batteries sold in the United States will be designed to avoid unnecessary energy waste. As with many other appliance and vehicle efficiency standards over the past 40 years, this is an example where state energy efficiency policy can have an outsized impact on the entire country--and even the world as the effect of these standards spill over beyond U.S. borders.
Pete Altman, Climate and Clean Air Campaign Director, Washington, D.C.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Clean Power Plan (CPP), the centerpiece of President Obama's climate leadership, has been welcomed by an outpouring of support from a broad and diverse range of voices all across the country. We are thrilled to see so much support emerging so quickly for the first-ever limits on dangerous carbon pollution from power plants, including from nearly one hundred elected officials. I have selected a few examples of the membership and constituency voices to highlight here. We'll cover the breadth of elected official support in a separate blog.
Let's start with public health groups, since the EPA's basis for setting carbon limits is rooted in its mission to protect our health. Here's what the American Lung Association said:
Today, President Obama honored his commitment to act on climate change, a public health emergency. The Clean Power Plan is a tremendous step forward in the United States' fight against carbon pollution and climate change that will also bring immediate health benefits to the American people. EPA estimates that the Clean Power Plan will prevent up to 3,600 premature deaths and 90,000 asthma attacks in 2030, as well as prevent 300,000 missed days of work and school.
The National Medical Association, the national association of African American physicians, issued this statement:
Quite simply, the final Clean Power Plan standards will help us protect our patients' health and the health of all Americans," said NMA President Lawrence Sanders, Jr., MD, an Atlanta internist and the 115th president of the NMA. "Many of our patients are disproportionately affected by the dangers associated with carbon pollution and the other kinds of pollution that pour out of power-plant smokestack across the country. These new, final standards are an important step in addressing both.
I, along with the National Hispanic Medical Association's 50,000 member doctors and allied health professionals, strongly support the EPA's final rule limiting carbon pollution from existing power plants. Pollution from these power plants--both carbon pollution and other toxic power-plant emissions--sickens people raising the risk of illnesses like asthma, allergies, lung cancer and heart disease.
Additional health groups supporting the Clean Power Plan include the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Public Health Association, the Allergy & Asthma Network, the American Thoracic Society and the Trust for America's Health.
Communities and leaders of color:
Minority and low-income communities are frequently recognized as among the most vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Organizations and leaders representing those voices made their support clear:
Adrianna Quintero, Director of Voces Verdes, said:
The Clean Power Plan is a critical step towards fighting climate change and the threat it poses for our lives and the lives of our children. I look at my two children and I know that I owe it to them and to their children to force polluters to clean up their act and stop dumping carbon and toxic pollution into our air and transition to a clean energy economy so that they may inherit the future we dream of for them.
The National Action Network, one of the nation's leading civil rights organizations, said
Climate change is not a future generation's problem. It affects our communities and our health each and every day and we need to take advantage of the opportunity presented by the EPA's Clean Power Plan to mitigate global climate change and pollution borne health issues.
The NAACP expressed strong support as well:
As we enter the third day of America's Journey for Justice, I applaud President Obama's introduction of the Clean Power Plan. Just as we march to preserve our right to vote and to ensure that our children have access to good schools and a quality education, we also march to preserve our rights to clean air, clean water and to communities less impacted by climate change.
And the Hip Hop Caucus weighed in:
The Hip Hop Caucus supports the clean Power Plan. The Clean Power Plan proposed rule is a commonsense plan to cut carbon pollution from power plants. States, cities and businesses across the country are already taking action to address the risk of climate change.
The Evangelical Environmental Network posted a letter from 174 faith leaders stating:
We see overcoming the climate challenge as one of the great moral opportunities of our time, a chance to fulfill the Great Commandments to love God, our neighbors, and ourselves. It is God's love that calls all of us to take on this challenge. That is why we write to offer our support and encouragement for your efforts to overcome the climate challenge.
Interfaith Power and Light proclaimed:
Pope Francis has stated that the gravity of the ecological crisis requires we all protect the common good, and reducing carbon pollution from power plants will safeguard common goods like air, water, land and community health for generations to come. Faith communities have been gathering comments and testifying in favor of this plan for years, because it's a matter of climate justice and a historic step towards protecting all of God's creation.
In creating the first ever national standard for power plants, the rule will ensure that power plants reduce carbon pollution, soot, and other air pollutants that effect our health and contribute significantly to climate change. We believe that it is our responsibility to act as environmental stewards and partners with God in tilling and tending the earth, as humankind was commanded in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:15).Consumer Groups:
Consumers Union stated:
The Clean Power Plan has a very reasonable schedule for states to implement these improvements, and the plan offers states the flexibility and control they need to reach the goals of cutting emissions in the most cost-effective ways.
Public Citizen said:
The Clean Power Plan is an historic and critical step in combating climate change. Our analysis of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's proposal found that it is overwhelmingly beneficial to consumers. It will lower electricity bills by spurring energy efficiency measures, which will allow consumers to use less power while paying less. The rule also will mitigate climate change, which will be devastating to U.S. consumers - particularly those with low or fixed incomes - if left unchecked.Environmental Justice:
A joint statement from National People's Action, Environmental Justice Leadership Forum on Climate Change and the Climate Justice Alliance stated:
We support the President and the EPA in reducing emissions of carbon dioxide and co-pollutants from power plants. We are encouraged to see that the final plan specifically requires an environmental justice analysis and engagement with EJ groups.
WE ACT stated:
We applaud President Obama and the EPA for putting forth this ambitious plan to address climate change. For the past year, EJ leaders across this country have been working hard to raise and voice our concerns about how equity must be a central theme in the final rule. We believe that the both the White House and the EPA have listened, and are taking a step in the right direction to get us cleaner air, cleaner energy and cleaner communities. This is a historic day and it is our hope that all states get on board.
Strong support is also emerging from diverse businesses and business groups as well: Environmental Entrepreneurs, a national, nonpartisan group of business leaders, investors and others who advocate for policies that are good for the economy and good for the environment, said:
This is the most significant environmental policy we've seen in recent years, and also a huge catalyst for economic growth..."States now have a blueprint for building their clean energy economy. It's up to governors to put this plan into action if they want to create jobs and drive economic growth - and help their state's environment as well.
E2 was joined by many other business groups, including Advanced Energy Economy, Business Council for Sustainable Energy, Ceres, the National Advisory Council of Chambers for Innovation and Clean Energy, and the Small Business Majority.
Small Business Majority CEO John Arensmeyer told The Hill on Monday why small businesss support climate action:
Fifty-seven percent of small businesses believe climate change and extreme weather events are an urgent problem, and one in five said they have had to lay off employees due to extreme weather.
The wind industry is keen on the CPP, according to this statement from the American Wind Energy Association:
American wind power can do this ... Low-cost wind energy reduced carbon emissions by five percent in 2014, and we're capable of doing a lot more. We can build a more diverse, reliable, cleaner energy mix for America, while creating jobs and keeping money in consumers' pockets.
And so is the solar industry. As the Solar Energy Industries Association stated:
Calling President Obama's signature climate change policy both 'historic' and 'critically needed,' the solar industry issued its strong support for the Environmental Protection Agency's Clean Power Plan, scheduled to be released on Monday, urging states to consider solar as a clean, affordable, reliable and carbon-free solution.
Power Companies: Even some of the nation's biggest power companies had positive things to say about the CPP, including New Jersey's PSEG. NJ.com wrote:
Ralph Izzo, president, chairman and CEO of PSEG, the state's largest electric utility, said the company is still analyzing the plan, but that PSEG supports it.
We are pleased with the recognition that energy efficiency is an important tool to reducing greenhouse gases," he said in a statement. "We understand states may be incentivized to promote energy efficiency for low-income customers as an early tool to reduce greenhouse gases. We believe utilities can play a critical role in making sure that all energy users -- especially low and moderate income customers who need it most -- have access to energy efficiency.
Virginia's Dominion Power was also positive. Its CEO was quoted saying
Dominion will work constructively with Gov. (Terry) McAuliffe, the state agencies and other stakeholders on a compliance plan that has our customers as the first priority, ensures reliability and maintains a diverse mix of electric generation.
The BlueGreen Alliance, a coalition of labor and environmental groups, said:
The Clean Power Plan is an important step in reducing carbon emissions and avoiding the worst impacts of climate change. Now begins the critical work of developing state-based plans that can create and secure quality family-sustaining jobs, provide opportunities for disproportionately impacted communities, and encourage investment and economic growth. The BlueGreen Alliance is committed across our partnership and in the states to ensuring compliance with the plan to create opportunities for high-wage job growth, such as through investment in energy efficiency and clean energy technologies.
Service Employees International Union President MaryKay Henry said
President Obama's Clean Power Plan will improve our economy through the creation of jobs for hard-working Americans in a new energy economy -- while improving the health of our families and their communities.
Mike Breen, the Executive Director of the Truman National Security Project, said
We applaud the EPA for taking this step to reduce carbon emissions that contribute to climate change. This new rule builds upon steps already taken by our military to address the threat of climate change and puts the United States on the right trajectory to be a global leader in slashing emissions that fuel climate change. This is a positive step towards addressing the serious threat climate change poses to our national security.
Moms Clean Air Force stated:
Over half a million parents, members of Moms Clean Air Force, urge each and every one of our governors to speedily work toward implementation plans for this historic standard. Carbon pollution threatens our children, our communities, and our way of life. It must be curbed, and the authors and supporters of the American Clean Power Plan deserve our gratitude.
Climate Parents stated:
We are calling on every state to implement the Clean Power Plan in a way that prioritizes energy efficiency and renewables. State leaders and Presidential candidates who balk at implementing the Clean Power Plan are doing nothing less than abdicating their moral duty to protect the health and safety of the people they represent or seek to represent.
Ski Industry Groups:
The winter sports community applauds these historic standards. We appreciate the Administration's bold leadership in placing meaningful reduction standards on the largest source of carbon emissions...We know that these standards are good for our businesses and the future of our sports. It's time now to embrace innovation and clean energy, and we thank The White House and the EPA for taking the first major step towards making that happen.
The White House has also posted a number of statements of support here.
Susan Casey-Lefkowitz, Director of Programs, Washington, D.C.
America is taking historic action against climate change. On Monday, President Obama announced the first-ever national limits on carbon pollution from power plants. This breakthrough will help shield future generations from climate chaos and prevent thousands of premature deaths each year. It is also a major opportunity for us to shift away from fossil fuels--including natural gas--by expanding clean, renewable power.
This is welcome news for people living on the frontlines of reckless fracking for natural gas.
Natural gas companies have a track record of running roughshod over communities. Frack pads are often sunk in people's backyards and neighborhoods and have been linked to increased air pollution and contaminated drinking water. When the Environmental Protection Agency first proposed carbon limits a year ago, some groups feared the agency's plan would promote natural gas as a "bridge" fuel between coal and renewable energy.
Instead the EPA's final Clean Power Plan puts energy efficiency and renewable energy front and center as the path to meeting the targets for carbon pollution reductions. That means that as we all work together to have clean energy replace the need for coal and natural gas, more communities can be shielded from the threats of fracking and more communities can reap the benefits of clean energy.
Here's how the EPA plan accelerates the move away from gas and coal.
The EPA has set carbon reduction targets for each state and grants them a lot of flexibility in how to achieve the reductions. These targets will expand the market for low-carbon resources like energy efficiency, wind and solar, while carbon-heavy fossil fuel generation, including natural gas, will have to absorb at least some of the costs of their pollution--costs they have foisted on us for the past century. In addition, the agency offers states early incentives for clean energy, including building more wind and solar power and broadening energy efficiency programs with an extra incentive to help low-income communities put money-saving energy efficiency in place.
The Clean Power Plan provides no similar incentives for natural gas generation.
The agency has projected how the carbon pollution limits will change the nation's energy mix. By 2030, it forecasts that coal generation will be about 23 percent lower than it would be without the rule. Some states will replace part of that energy with natural gas, but the EPA standards provide for them to do so only by increasing performance of existing plants, not by building new plants. As a result, the agency projects new gas power plant construction will drop by between 39 percent to 68 percent from where it might have been without the rule. Because the EPA projects that existing natural gas plants will continue to run, however, the agency estimates only a 1 to 4.5 percent drop in gas use for power by 2030.
Yet the EPA's projections are based on conservative estimates about how much low-cost efficiency and renewable energy the market will deliver. This means that EPA's modeling likely overstates the amount of natural gas use compared to what will happen in the real world.
The Clean Power Plan is designed to give a measurable leg up to efficiency and renewables. The market is theirs to dominate, and EPA projects that renewable electricity could roughly double between today and 2030. NRDC's analysis shows even greater potential for these cleaner resources. Taking advantage of this potential will even further reduce reliance on natural gas.
The natural gas industry used to claim that new gas plants could be the so-called bridge between coal-fired plants and renewable power. The EPA plan rejects the notion that one carbon-intensive fuel can be a sustainable replacement for another. And the unhappy reaction of the natural gas industry backs that up. When the EPA's final plan was released, the president of the industry-backed American Energy Alliance Tom Pyle said: "The bridge was just blown up."
The Clean Power Plan helps level the playing field for energy efficiency and renewable energy. Now it's up to all of us to push states to move beyond fossil fuels. Citizens have a role to play as states design their plans for hitting carbon reduction targets. We can tell our governors, state legislators and other leaders that we want more clean energy in our communities. This message is especially important to deliver in states where natural gas is a contender for replacing coal in our power plants.
As we work together in the coming years, we will see more wind farms along the horizon, more energy-saving appliances installed in low-income neighborhoods, more solar panels lining office roofs. Over time, this will lower demand for the frack pads and gas plants that threaten the health and well-being of too many American communities. With our help, the EPA plan for reducing carbon pollution will accelerate this shift. Click here to show your support.
Samantha Williams, Staff Attorney, Chicago
The historic Clean Power Plan was finalized this week, our nation's first-ever limits on carbon pollution from the electric power sector--the single biggest source of climate change pollution in America. While there are limits on dangerous emissions like sulfur and mercury from power plants, there are none on harmful carbon emissions--until now.
The Clean Power Plan is a game-changer for Ohio--a state that uses nearly 70% coal-fired electricity. It's an incredible opportunity to step out from the past, modernize the electric grid and ensure we have an ongoing supply of clean, affordable, and reliable power needed to grow our economy and protect our health and the health of our children.But What's in the New Rule?
The final rule was released barely three days ago. But we already know that cutting emissions the right way--by focusing on clean energy--is going to the lower cost of electricity in Ohio, protect public health, and grow the economy.
Here are some of the key elements of the new rule that have already come to the surface, with many more to come:The Rule is Stronger and Treats States More Fairly
The final Clean Power Plan rule requires a 32 percent reduction in carbon pollution from our nation's electric sector from 2005 levels by 2030, which represents a nine percent increase over the draft rule. In beefing up the environmental benefits of the rule, EPA hopes to accelerate the adoption of carbon-free energy, such as clean, renewable energy sources and energy efficiency.
Like the draft rule, the final Clean Power Plan gives states the flexibility to chart their own course to carbon reductions and does not dictate a specific approach to reducing carbon emissions. Even more flexibility has now been provided than before: streamlined opportunities for states to include proven strategies like trading and demand-side energy efficiency in their plans, and allows states to develop "trading ready" plans to participate in "opt in" to an emission credit trading market with other states taking parallel approaches without the need for interstate agreements. All low-carbon electricity generation technologies, including renewables and energy efficiency, can play a role in state plans.
As noted in my previous blogs, Ohio would reap the most financial and clean energy benefits by establishing a simple carbon allowance system in-state that would allow for a simple state plan now, but leave open the potential for cross-state trading--and financial rewards--later.Ohio Now Has More Time and an Easier Glide Path
Ohio now has a full three years to submit its state plan, and compliance starts two years later than originally proposed in the draft rule. The compliance averaging period begins in 2022 instead of 2020, and emission reductions are phased in on a gradual "glide path" to 2030.
These provisions give Ohio and utilities companies more time to prepare a customized plan that works best for the state's own resource mix and to plan for the deployment of the lowest-cost clean energy resources.Ohio Will be Rewarded for Early Action on Energy Efficiency and Renewables
EPA added a brand-spanking-new program to the final Clean Power Plan package to encourage states to start investing in renewable energy like wind and solar and energy efficiency and help cut energy bills even further even before they're required to start demonstrating their emissions reductions. The "Clean Energy Incentive Program" has two components: it gives states credit for generating power from wind and solar in 2020 and 2021, and further incents investment in communities that need it the most by providing double credits to energy efficiency projects in low income neighborhoods. State participation in the program is optional, but why would a state pass this up?
It's also important to note that, in addition to this explicit crediting system on early action in the 2020-2021 period, Ohio will see even deeper benefits if it continues to invest in efficiency and renewables--starting now. EPA set the state targets using 2012 as the baseline year, and assuming that states would reduce emissions from that point through 2030. If Ohio presses the "restart" button on its clean energy policies (which were frozen last year by SB 310), the state's investments in efficiency and renewables today will continue to reduce Ohio's emissions across the system, and as a result will get included in the final calculation. Though Ohio will not have to demonstrate compliance until 2022, the state will be able ahead of the game if it starts now and will be able to immediately call upon the prior years of investments to deliver even more cost-effective emissions reductions.Energy Efficiency Remains a Critical "Not-So-Secret Weapon"
The rule also removes energy efficiency from EPA's calculation in determining state targets. To recap the basic structure of the rule, US EPA based emissions targets on a set of conservative "building blocks" composed of four best practice tools that are already being used to reduce emissions: making coal plants more efficient, ramping up use of existing natural gas plants, increasing renewable energy, and increasing energy efficiency. EPA applied these blocks to each state's energy mix and developed carbon intensity targets (i.e. the amount of carbon produced for each unit of power generated). EPA has now restructured how these blocks are calculated, and energy efficiency has been removed from the target-setting.
But regardless of how EPA does its calculations to set targets, energy efficiency remains an incredibly important and powerful tool for reducing carbon emissions. Now more than ever it's the "not so secret" weapon in Ohio's arsenal to get this done. To be sure, EPA affirmed their commitment to efficiency as a key carbon-cutting tool in developing incentives for early action in the Clean Energy Incentive Program. EPA confirmed this week that "thanks to their low costs and large potential in every state and region, demand-side EE programs will be a significant component of state compliance plans under the Clean Power Plan. The CPP's flexible compliance options allow states to fully deploy EE to help meet their state goals."
The continued emphasis on efficiency should come as no surprise to Ohioans. After all, energy efficiency programs have delivering savings and lowering power prices in Ohio for years. As I've blogged about extensively, Ohio's utility-led energy efficiency programs have been wildly successful, having created thousands of jobs and saving customers over $1 billion on energy costs statewide.What Comes Next?
Ohio has options to meet the challenge of reducing carbon pollution; though there are some that will say over the coming days and weeks that it's too costly and it will hurt the state's economy if we go down this road.
The Clean Power Plan comes at an important time as we're deciding in the General Assembly the future of Ohio's energy landscape. But with the newly minted rules of the Clean Power Plan, it's no longer and "if" but a "when" will Ohio take the next steps to achieve results that are needed to spur tens of thousands of new clean energy jobs across the state, save consumers a billion dollars over the next ten years through increased gains in efficiency, and put the state on the path to compliance with federal law.
And with the flexibility and extraordinary discretion provided in the Clean Power Plan, there's no reason why Ohio can't develop our own plan that takes advantage of policies already on the books. If done right, it can be achievable, cost-effective, and make the system more resilient.
We're already ahead of the game, because Ohio has clean energy standards just waiting to be leveraged. While those have unfortunately been ground to a halt in the aftermath of last year's unfortunate legislation, we can get back on track simply by pressing the restart button on them.
And we should do it as soon as possible.
- Bisphenol A (BPA)
- Hexavalent Chromium
- Methylene chloride (dichloromethane)
- Perchloroethylene (Tetrachloroethylene, PERC, PCE)
- Propoxur (Flea and Tick Pesticide)
- Sulfur Dioxide
- TDCP/TCEP (Chlorinated Flame Retardants)
- Tetrachlorvinphos (Flea and Tick Pesticide)
- Trichloroethylene (TCE)
- Triclosan and Triclocarban (Antibacterials)