Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Obama's climate plan includes CO2 standards for existing power plants

Article published on on June, 25th 2013

US President Barack Obama will direct the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to create new carbon pollution standards for existing power plants, according to an action plan released by his administration on June 25th, 2013.

The President will make this announcement in a speech at 1:30 PM at Georgetown University in Washington DC. “The President's Climate Action Plan” also includes a plan to permit 10 GW of new renewable energy projects on federal lands by 2020, as well as deploying 3 GW of renewable energy on military installations by 2025.

CO2 limits will benefit multiple technologies

In March 2012 the US EPA proposed a limit for carbon dioxide emissions from new power plants, however the 450 kg/MWh limit would still allow new combined-cycle natural gas generation and coal-fired generation with carbon capture and storage.

Limits on emissions for both new and existing power plants will create space for lower-carbon technologies, including renewable energy but also nuclear power and natural gas generation.

Union of Concerned Scientists: more must be done

The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) has noted that while power plant carbon standards are important, additional policies will be necessary to achieve the President's stated emissions goals.

“In 2009, President Obama committed to reduce U.S. emissions 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020,” notes UCS Strategy and Policy Director Alden Meyer. “The president can meet that goal, and if he uses every tool at his disposal, he can exceed it.” 

“Power plant carbon standards will be job one and he’ll need to make sure they’re finalized well before his administration ends. He’ll also need to use additional policies to maximize emissions reductions from the electricity sector and build on his success with reducing oil use and emissions in the transportation sector.”

Proposal to extend “clean energy” R&D

The plan also notes that US President Obama's FY 2014 budget includes a proposal to expand federal funding for “clean energy” research, development and deployment across all federal agencies to USD 7.9 billion.

However, the budget requires approval by both houses of the US Congress, so unlike EPA action this is not something that President Obama can accomplish solely through his administration.

Also, the definition of “clean energy” could be problematic for environmentalists and renewable energy advocates. The plan also proposes to extend the US Department of Energy's loan guarantee program provide USD 8 billion in loans for “advanced fossil energy projects”.

Transmission upgrades a component of plans

The plan notes that President Obama signed a new memorandum to direct federal agencies to streamline the siting, permitting and review process for transmission projects across federal, state and tribal governments.
Finally, the plan includes a goal to install 100 MW of new renewable energy on federally subsidized housing stock by 2020.

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