Climate 411

Proof that the Clean Power Plan’s strategy for cutting carbon pollution is the industry standard

The public comment period is just about to close on EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s reckless attempt to repeal the Clean Power Plan, and thousands of Americans — including mayors, CEOs, energy experts, and citizens concerned about the threats Pruitt’s actions pose to our children’s health and future — have already spoken out in vigorous opposition to the misguided repeal effort.

There is a lot at stake. The Clean Power Plan would prevent 4,500 early deaths and 90,000 childhood asthma attacks each year. It would cut carbon pollution by 32 percent from 2005 levels, and would substantially reduce other harmful air pollutants from power plants.

By slashing air pollution and helping mitigate the threats of climate change, the Clean Power Plan would secure significant benefits to public health while growing the clean energy economy.

Yet, as Pruitt continues his misguided effort to turn back the clock on lifesaving climate protections, momentum is growing in states and the power sector to slash carbon pollution and usher in a clean energy future.

States and companies are moving away from carbon-intensive sources of electricity generation, and are increasing their use of cleaner technologies — deploying the same cost-effective strategies to cut carbon pollution that EPA relied upon when establishing emission reduction targets under the Clean Power Plan. Pruitt’s attempt to repeal the Clean Power Plan is putting this flexible approach to ambitious and low-cost emission reductions under attack.

Meaningful federal actions to reduce carbon pollution, such as the Clean Power Plan, remain essential to mitigate climate change. But in the meantime, states and companies – by making continued progress toward emission reductions through time-tested methods – are providing solid evidence that the Clean Power Plan’s approach is not only reasonable, but is the industry-standard for reducing carbon pollution from the power sector. 

The clean energy transformation is accelerating

Carbon pollution from the power sector fell to 27 percent below 2005 levels in 2017, continuing a clear downward trend since the mid-2000’s even as the U.S. economy continues to grow. Carbon pollution levels from the power sector in the U.S. have now fallen below emissions from transportation, demonstrating remarkable progress in cleaning up our electric grid.

The rapid decarbonization of the U.S. power sector continues to be driven by a shift toward clean energy technologies. Renewable energy including solar, wind, and hydropower generated a record 18 percent of U.S. electricity in 2017, and new renewables comprised nearly half of utility-scale generating capacity installed in 2017. As more and more high-polluting coal plants become scheduled for retirement, power companies and regulators from Colorado to New Mexico to Wisconsin are increasingly replacing them directly with renewables.

A precipitous drop in costs has made the outlook for clean energy increasingly bullish in recent years. The cost of utility-scale solar power fell by more than 77 percent from 2010 to 2017. Worldwide, the cost of solar and onshore wind power declined by 18 percent in the last year alone.

As of 2017, the lifetime cost of unsubsidized wind and utility-scale solar is now below that of coal and on par with the cost of natural gas combined cycle technology.

Low-cost projections for clean energy are increasingly becoming a reality on the ground. In Colorado, for example, a recent solicitation for new renewables resulted in bid prices for wind and solar plus energy storage that are cheaper than the operating cost of nearly all coal plants in the state.

States and power companies continue to lead

Across the country, state governors and major power companies have continued to ramp up forward-looking commitments to cut carbon pollution and deploy clean energy — recognizing these clear power sector trends and driving increasingly ambitious climate progress.

Here are some recent examples:

Power companies

  • American Electric Power, the nation’s largest generator of electricity from coal, laid out a strategy in February to reduce carbon pollution by 60 percent below 2000 levels by 2030, and 80 percent by 2050. “There is no question the electrification of our economy is accelerating,” said CEO Nick Akins. “Today, we are taking a longer-term view of carbon by setting new goals for carbon dioxide emission reductions for the future based upon resource plans that account for economics, customer preferences, reliability and regulation.”
  • Southern Company, the nation’s third largest power producer, announced a goal this month to reduce carbon pollution by 50 percent below 2007 levels by 2030 and to achieve “low- to no-carbon operations by 2050.” The commitment comes in the wake of a rapidly changing generation mix for Southern, with its share of generation from coal declining to 28 percent in 2017 from 70 percent in 2010.
  • In March, Oregon’s Portland General Electric committed to reducing carbon pollution by more than 80 percent by 2050, in part by achieving Oregon’s target of 50 percent renewable energy by 2040 and transitioning away from coal by 2035.
  • PacifiCorp subsidiary Rocky Mountain Power plans to add more than 1,300 megawatts of wind power by 2020 — a $1.5 billion investment.

Across the Midwest, a slate of electric utilities recently committed to slash carbon emissions and transition away from coal:

  • PPL Corporation plans to reduce emissions by 2050 to 70 percent below 2010 levels, including retiring the bulk of the company’s coal plants in Kentucky.
  • Wisconsin’s largest utility, WEC Energy Group, plans to reduce carbon pollution by 40% below 2005 levels by 2030.
  • In Indiana, Vectren announced plans to reduce carbon pollution by 60 percent by shuttering three coal-fired power plants.
  • Ameren Missouri committed to reducing emissions to 80 percent below 2005 levels by 2050, and plans to invest $1 billion to add at least 700 megawatts of wind power by 2020.
  • In February 2018, Michigan utility Consumers Energy announced plans to reduce emissions by 80 percent and phase out coal by 2040.

States

  • This month, New Jersey lawmakers passed a sweeping clean energy bill that will put the state on a path to becoming a national clean energy leader. Governor Phil Murphy directed the state to begin negotiations to rejoin the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) – a multi-state program to reduce carbon pollution from the power sector. Governor Murphy also signed an order adding New Jersey to the U.S. Climate Alliance of states committed to upholding the Paris Agreement goals, and has outlined a goal of powering the state with 100 percent clean energy by mid-century.
  • In a show of bipartisan commitment to ambitious climate action, Maryland also joined the U.S. Climate Alliance this January, and participated in a multi-state process to strengthen RGGI.
  • Alaska Governor Bill Walker — an Independent — signed an order in October 2017 establishing an advisory team to propose actions, including “statutory and regulatory changes,” for the state to reduce carbon pollution and support the goals of the Paris Agreement.
  • Just last week, environmental and energy regulators from thirteen states — California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington delivered a letter to Administrator Pruitt opposing repeal of the Clean Power Plan and highlighting important progress across states to reduce carbon pollution from the power sector. “Low natural gas prices, declining costs of renewable energy technologies, and low demand growth are all existing power sector trends that have allowed our states to reap positive economic benefits from reducing emissions. The CPP would amplify these trends and make emissions reductions easier and more cost-effective,” the states write in the letter.

Shared prosperity under a stable climate

As the impacts of climate change — from wildfires to hurricanescontinue to threaten vulnerable communities across the U.S. and around the world, concerted actions to cut climate pollution are more important than ever.

At the same time, efforts to transition to a clean energy economy are delivering myriad benefits — from millions of good-paying clean energy jobs, to critical public health protections, to more affordable and more reliable electricity.

The leadership demonstrated by a growing group of states and major power companies to advance climate progress is critical to securing the benefits of a stable climate and clean energy future for millions of Americans. With continued leadership, and a return to meaningful federal action, America will see a global clean energy transformation and secure shared prosperity for all.

Posted in Clean Air Act, Clean Power Plan, Economics, Energy, EPA litgation, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, News, Policy, Pruitt / Comments are closed

Climate and clean energy progress continues in spite of Clean Power Plan repeal rumors

According to news reports, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt is planning to start the process of repealing the Clean Power Plan very soon.

This seriously flawed and misguided effort would be a dangerous step backwards for public health and climate protections.

However, as the Trump Administration continues to unravel these protections, the transition to a clean energy future is accelerating. States, cities, and power companies are responding to the ongoing attacks by forging ahead with ambitious actions to slash carbon pollution in order to respond to the threat of climate change and accelerate the clean energy revolution.

Clean Power Plan repeal?

The Clean Power Plan is a common-sense rule to safeguard public health by reducing carbon pollution from power plants to 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030.

The Clean Power Plan would prevent:

  • 3,600 premature deaths each year
  • 1,700 heart attacks each year
  • 90,000 asthma attacks each year

Administrator Pruitt reportedly intends to propose repealing the Clean Power Plan in the coming days.

If so, EPA will likely issue an “Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking” (ANPR) to solicit public input on a replacement rule – a protracted process that is likely to lead to a far weaker standard.

The ANPR process could lead to years of harmful and unjustified delay in implementing urgently needed limits on carbon pollution from fossil fuel power plants.

Forging ahead to a clean energy future

The U.S. power sector has already made enormous strides in deploying clean energy resources and slashing greenhouse gas emissions.

American Wind Energy Association

 

Solar Jobs Census 2016The Solar Foundation, interactive map

Globally, the International Energy Agency (IEA) reported yesterday that renewables accounted for almost two-thirds of new capacity installed.

  • Solar additions worldwide grew faster than any other fuel last year, including coal and natural gas.
  • Over the next five years, the IEA projects renewable capacity to grow by over 920 gigawatts – a 43 percent increase by 2022.

Meanwhile, by the end of 2016, carbon pollution from U.S. power plants had already declined to 25 percent below 2005 levels – meaning the power sector is already almost 80 percent of the way to achieving the Clean Power Plan’s 2030 targets.

A new report by the Institute for Policy Integrity highlights the falling costs of complying with the Clean Power Plan. The report points to several market and policy developments including low natural prices, declining renewable energy costs, the 2015 renewable energy tax credit extensions, and state programs supporting the adoption of clean energy technologies.

The Clean Power Plan targets have become a floor for forward-looking states and companies that acknowledge the Clean Power Plan was a first step towards realizing the promise of a low-carbon power sector.

Yet this shift towards clean energy – driven by market forces and accelerating subnational action – is no substitute for decisive federal action that will ensure continued and accelerated progress in achieving the emissions reductions required to stem the tide of climate change.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration projects that without the Clean Power Plan, carbon emissions from the power sector will increase by 2030 – reversing the current downward trajectory in the United States and leaving the country behind as the global clean energy revolution continues.

To keep us moving forward, state and local officials are stepping up their game by cutting carbon pollution and switching to clean energy in spite of — and in direct response to — President Trump’s rollbacks.

  • Fourteen states and Puerto Rico, accounting for more than 10 percent of U.S. carbon emissions from the power sector, pledged as part of the new U.S. Climate Alliance to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions consistent with the goals of the Paris Agreement, as well as meet or exceed their Clean Power Plan targets.
  • 381 mayors (and counting) representing more than 67 million Americans also pledged to honor the Paris Agreement goals and work to meet the 1.5° Celsius global temperature target. Dozens of cities have committed to move to 100 percent clean energy.
  • Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper signed an executive order in July 2017 committing the state to slash greenhouse gas emissions to 26 percent below 2005 levels by 2026, consistent with U.S. goals under the Paris Agreement. “The vast majority of our residents, and indeed the country, expect us to help lead the way toward a clean and affordable energy future,” Governor Hickenlooper said in a press release.
  • Nine states comprising the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) in August announced a proposal to cut carbon pollution from the power sector an additional 30 percent between 2020 and 2030 – a 65 percent reduction below the original 2009 pollution cap. The proposal demonstrates bipartisan commitment to combat climate change, with five Republican and four Democratic governors helming the RGGI states (Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont). Meanwhile, both New Jersey gubernatorial frontrunners have pledged to rejoin RGGI after this year’s election.
  • Virginia regulators are working to establish a “trading-ready” program to slash power plant carbon emissions in response to an executive order Governor Terry McAuliffe signed in May 2017. “Today, I am proud to take executive action to cut greenhouse gases and make Virginia a leader in the global clean energy economy,” Governor McAuliffe said when he signed the order.
  • California affirmed its position as a global leader on climate progress with a bevy of actions in the past year. In September 2016, legislators passed SB 32, which requires the state to slash greenhouse gas emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030. In July 2017, the state secured a 10-year extension to its landmark cap-and-trade program and strengthened tools to improve local air quality in a bipartisan effort. “All over the world, momentum is building to deal seriously with climate change,” Governor Jerry Brown said in July. “Despite rejection in Washington, California is all in.”
  • At least 20 states and the District of Columbia have adopted ambitious greenhouse gas reduction targets, with most aiming for an 80 percent reduction by 2050 below baselines ranging from 1990 to 2006. Twenty-nine states and D.C. have binding renewable portfolio standards in place, while eight more have set renewable portfolio goals. Twenty states have set mandatory energy efficiency targets, while eight more have set energy efficiency goals.

The nation’s largest power companies are similarly pledging to slash carbon pollution and deploy renewable energy resources as they embrace the rapid transition to a clean energy economy.

  • The CEO of American Electric Power (AEP), the country’s largest generator of electricity from coal, had this to say in response to President Trump’s decision to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Agreement: “I think it's really important for us to stay engaged from an international community standpoint, particularly addressing large issues. And not withstanding that, we're continuing on our path of moving to a clean energy economy.” AEP has cut carbon pollution by 44 percent since 2005, and has plans to add more than eight gigawatts of wind and solar in the coming years.
  • Duke Energy, the nation’s largest power producer, this year announced plans to reduce carbon emissions to 40 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. “Our next major investment platform focuses on generating cleaner energy,” said CEO Lynn Good. “Our retirement of more than 40 older, less efficient coal units, coupled with the addition of clean natural gas plants and renewables, is driving our emissions reduction.”
  • DTE Energy Co. announced plans in May 2017 to curb its carbon emissions more than 80 percent by 2050 by closing coal-fired power plants and adding new gas-fired generation and renewables. “Not only is the 80 percent reduction goal achievable – it is achievable in a way that keeps Michigan's power affordable and reliable,” DTE Chairman and CEO Gerry Anderson said. “There doesn't have to be a choice between the health of our environment or the health of our economy; we can achieve both.”
  • Xcel Energy committed in June 2017 to achieving a 60 percent reduction in carbon emissions by 2030, relative to 2005 levels. In August, the company announced plans to retire two coal-fired units in Colorado, continuing its progress towards a cleaner generating portfolio. In addition, Xcel’s massive new investments in renewable energy –including a proposal to add 3,380 megawatts of wind generation across seven states –will help the company generate 40 percent of its energy from renewables by 2021.
  • Berkshire Hathaway Energy subsidiary MidAmerican Energy has announced a goal to provide 100 percent renewable energy, including a $3.6 billion project to add 2,000 megawatts of wind, which will expand wind energy to 85 percent of the company’s sales. Said CEO Bill Fehrman: “Our customers want more renewable energy, and we couldn’t agree more.”
  • Minnesota Power, a division of ALLETE, plans to provide 44 percent of its electricity from renewable resources by 2025. Said one executive, “We look forward to working with our customers and regulators to continue down the path toward a safe, reliable, cleaner and affordable energy future.”

The imperative of addressing climate change, overwhelming public support for climate action, and clear market trends towards lower-carbon energy resources are driving states, cities, and power companies to lead the way to a low-carbon future.

If governors, mayors, and power sector CEOs continue to take steps to reduce carbon pollution, they will realize the tremendous benefits of a clean energy economy — thousands of new jobs, critical public health protections, and increasingly resilient communities and infrastructure.

The Trump Administration’s effort to repeal the common-sense Clean Power Plan – its latest attack on life-saving safeguards for our children’s health – will not change the reality of climate change or the accelerating transition to an economy powered by low-carbon energy.

However, without a quick return to meaningful federal progress, the U.S. will fall further behind in the global clean energy revolution – one that could lead to shared prosperity and enormous opportunities for millions of Americans.

Posted in Clean Power Plan, Economics, Energy, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, News / Comments are closed

Shining Light on Scott Pruitt’s Attacks on Our Children’s Health

Wikimedia Commons

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) effort to unravel critical clean air and climate protections is in full swing.

The EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation (OAR) held a three-hour long public tele-hearing this week on President Trump’s agenda to unravel vital public health and environmental safeguards.

Held by phone only, in the middle of the workday, the hearing was scheduled to:

[S]olicit input on specific air and radiation actions that could be repealed, replaced or modified.

Under Administrator Scott Pruitt, a staggering asymmetry is underway at EPA that is a tremendous disservice to public health and the public good.

EPA adopted the clean air protections now under scrutiny by Scott Pruitt and his industry allies after years of scientific research and technical analysis, extensive public notice and comment, and thorough consideration.

Now, industry is trumpeting a “wish list” of these very safeguards, which they seek to discard.

As this week’s opaque teleconference demonstrated, Scott Pruitt is acting without meaningful public notice, comment, or hearing. This lack of transparency is consistent with what the New York Times called Pruitt’s “secretive” methods while Attorney General of Oklahoma.

We urge you to raise your voices and oppose this unprecedented attack on our bedrock public health and environmental safeguards. We urge you to make your voice heard by submitting public comments – by May 15, 2017 – on EPA’s docket, “Evaluation of Existing Regulations.”

That’s what my colleague, EDF’s Mandy Warner, and I tried to do during this week’s teleconference.

We urged EPA to preserve crucial protections that ensure our families have clean air to breathe.

I told the panel that I am deeply concerned by EPA’s efforts to unravel critical regulations that protect millions of Americans — including young people like me — from the dangerous effects of air pollution. Many of my peers across the country suffer from asthma, miss school because the air is too dirty for them to leave their house, or have lost family members due to toxic air pollution. (You can read my full testimony here)

Mandy’s comments reflected her concern for her two young daughters:

I asked my four-year-old the other night why she thought clean air was important and she said very simply, ‘so you can breathe.’ She’s right. And that’s what this stakeholder meeting should be all about – ensuring clean air so kids can breathe.

There is an endless pool of worry parents have to contend with already. We worry about how much fish is safe for our children to eat every week due to mercury pollution, what days we need to be careful about letting our children play outside due to smoggy air, and what serious challenges our children will face from runaway climate change.

Please don’t add to our worries by rolling back critical, lifesaving protections that can help ensure a healthier future for my children and children across America.

(You can read Mandy’s full testimony here)

Our remarks were sandwiched between aggressive statements from the Utility Air Regulatory Group (UARG), a group of coal-based power companies, and the American Petroleum Institute (API).

Both groups – along with other industry players – predictably advocated weakening or repealing such common sense, scientifically sound protections as the health-based 2015 national air quality standard for ground-level ozone (more commonly called smog), the 2016 New Source Performance Standards for methane pollution from oil and gas facilities, and the long-standing greenhouse gas reporting requirements that protect Americans’ right-to-know who is discharging large volumes of climate pollution.

While industry representatives attacked EPA’s climate and clean air safeguards, many other people raised their voices in support of the agency’s lifesaving mission to protect public health and the environment.

EPA heard from an American who lost a dear friend to a deadly asthma attack linked to smog. They heard from a Pittsburgh native — in the heart of steel country — who highlighted the now thriving city’s progression from pollution to prosperity, thanks to strong clean air protections. They heard from a New Yorker forced to leave the city to protect her family from toxic air that lingered in her old home and harmed her children.

Under President Trump and Scott Pruitt, this EPA is recklessly charting a collision course with the health of our communities, our families and our children. As Pruitt’s EPA moves to unravel vital clean air and climate safeguards, we at EDF will continue to stand up — alongside all of you — to fight for the health and safety of all Americans.

Posted in Clean Air Act, Health, News, Policy / Comments are closed