The EPA’s Clean Power Plan, released in June, aims to cut carbon emissions at fossil fuel-fired plants by 30 percent by the year 2030. The emission rates include all forms of electric power generation, including renewable. The Clean Power Plan proposes a goal for each state, with target levels varying by state. The basic formula for the state goal rate is: carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel-fired power plants in pounds (lbs.) divided by state electricity generation from fossil fuel-fired plants and certain low-or zero-emitting power sources in megawatt hours (MWh). When setting the goals, the EPA analyzed the practical and affordable strategies that states are already using to lower carbon pollution from the power sector to determine the best system of emission reduction. The EPA determined that the following set of four measures (together) are the best system to reduce carbon pollution from fossil fuel-fired power plants:
- measures to make coal plants more efficient;
- increased use of high efficiency, natural gas combined cycle plants;
- generating electricity from low/zero emitting facilities; and
- demand-side energy efficiency.
Each state has the flexibility to choose how to meet the goal using a combination of measures that reflects its particular circumstances and policy objectives. Louisiana already has programs in place that could be part of its individual or regional plan to reduce carbon pollution, including:
- demand-side energy efficiency programs that advance energy efficiency improvements for electricity use;
- energy efficiency codes (meeting 2006 International Energy Conservation Codefor residential buildings); and
- energy efficiency codes (meeting ASHRAE Standard 90.1-2004) for commercial buildings.
In 2012, Louisiana’s power sector carbon dioxide emissions were approximately 45 million metric tons from sources covered by the rule. The amount of energy produced by fossil-fuel fired plants and certain low or zero emitting plants was approximately 67 terawatt hours (TWh). So, Louisiana’s 2012 emission rate was 1,466 pounds/megawatt hours (lb/MWh). The EPA is proposing that Louisiana develop a plan to lower its carbon pollution to meet its proposed emission rate goal of 883 lb/MWh in 2030. Texas emitted the most carbon dioxide measured in actual metric tons released into the atmosphere -- 223 million metric tons in 2012. However, its emission rate was 298 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt hour of electricity generated that year, a number the EPA would like to see be cut by 507 pounds by 2030.
The agency considers the United State’s Supreme Court’s interpretation of the Clean Air Act to be a “very good one” for the agency’s carbon plan. A 120-day comment period is underway for the plan, and the EPA is asking parties and states to give their comments, especially if they think that the position of the EPA "missed the boat" in terms of data or framing of issues. The EPA's administrator, Gina McCarthy, gave comments on the plan in mid-July before the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners, and stated that the agency is open for state-by-state discussions about how to best implement the plan.
The agency believes that, “the more states step up, the more will be understood about how to work in a partnership.” The agency also suggests that “if states look at this as investment opportunities, they are going to find themselves surging past that 2030 endpoint.” The agency explained that alternative modeling for reducing power plant emissions have been submitted to the agency, such as using highly efficient coal plants and expanding the use of renewable energy and gas. The new rules may accelerate the nation’s shift from coal to natural gas. According to the EPA, “it is important for states to look at the underling analysis behind the numbers.” After months of public comment and likely revisions, the EPA estimates that states will have to come up with plans by 2016, at the earliest, to reduce power plant emissions.