SACE | Southern Alliance for Clean Energy
1. Carbon Standards for New Power Plants
2. Clean Energy Biofuels Update
3. Wind Energy Works in the Southeast
4. Fukushima One Year Later
1. Carbon Standards for New Power Plants
EPA’s new limits will safeguard public health
In the spirit of ending Earth Month on an optimistic note, we wanted to share with you a story about history in the making. This March, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finally proposed new standards that will, for the first time, limit carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas pollution from new coal- and natural-gas-fired power plants. Because coal plants are the single largest emitter of carbon dioxide (CO2) pollution in the United States (dumping more than two billion tons of CO2 into the air every year), these behemoths are prime targets when seeking carbon reductions. When enacted, these New Source Performance Standards will limit carbon pollution from new power plants to no more than 1,000 pounds per megawatt-hour of electricity produced.
Although these new standards will not address existing coal plants, SACE strongly supports EPA’s proposed standards as an important step in protecting public health, combating climate change and pushing old, out-dated coal plants to retire. Limiting new sources of carbon pollution will also reduce future expenses triggered by climate change, such as damage caused by sea level rise, severe weather and drought. As an added benefit, these limits are expected to stimulate job growth in clean technology industries.
Before these safeguards can become the law of the land, EPA will accept public comments about the proposed standards until June 12. For the next six weeks, SACE will vigorously urge members, allies and concerned citizens alike to voice their support for these standards by submitting letters or emails, or by speaking at a public hearing. Take Action today so that these standards, already five years in the making, can soon begin protecting public health from the harmful effects of climate change.
2. Black Carbon and Its Role in Climate Change
The importance of cleaning up our air In addition to the recently proposed EPA rules, numerous other reports and efforts are providing new evidence and mitigation strategies to help us in the fight to protect the planet from climate impacts. Two of the more important reports to come out recently were EPA’s Report to Congress on Black Carbon released on March 30, 2012, and the United Nations Environment Programme’s Near-Term Climate Protections and Clean Air Benefits: Actions for Controlling Short-Lived Climate Forcers. Also significant to the fight against global warming is the formation of a new international coalition, the Climate and Clean Air Coalition, created to implement solutions for reducing short-lived climate forcing pollutants, including black carbon, methane and hydroflourocarbons.Short-lived climate forcers (SLCFs) exist briefly in the atmosphere, as in for only days to weeks, and they account for 30 to 40% of global warming pollution. Cleaning them up would reduce climate change impacts almost immediately, providing benefits now instead of later. There is often a lot of attention given to greenhouse gases (GHGs); however, reducing GHGs, like carbon dioxide (CO2), takes more time to yield results and have an impact than eliminating SLCFs does.Did you know black carbon is about 2000 times more potent than the equivalent amount of CO2 over a 20-year period? Diesel engines are the largest source of these emissions in the U.S. Other significant sources of black carbon include: open biomass burning, fossil fuel combustion, industrial and residential wood combustion (RWC), including hydronic heaters, woodstoves and furnaces. According to several reports, including EPA’s recent Report to Congress, combining ultra low sulfur diesel fuel with the use of diesel particulate filters (DPFs) and other cost-effective strategies can typically eliminate more than 90% of diesel particulate matter and reduce black carbon by as much as 99%. SACE Board of Directors President, John Noel, urges action on this issue, “Black carbon reduction is an instant game changer in the game we play for the quality of our lives and those who follow.” SACE is currently working to support diesel emission policies and funding for retrofitting, replacing, repowering, and refueling diesel engines with cleaner options and idling-reduction programs. Specifically, we are actively promoting Clean Construction provisions for federally funded transportation projects, municipalities, universities, healthcare facilities and many others. We recently hosted a webinar discussing black carbon and its role in climate change. If you’d like to learn more about this important issue, you can listen to the webinar here or visit our website for more information. To learn more about the climate impacts of diesel pollution, check out SACE’s website or http://www.dieselcleanup.org.
3. Coal-fired Plant Ben Hill Cancelled A big win for Georgia and the Southeast Controlling power plant emissions and managing black carbon weren’t the only big news stories about dirty energy in April. On Monday, April 9, Power4Georgians (P4G, a consortium of four utility co-ops) agreed to cancel Plant Ben Hill, which was to be built in middle Georgia, and to cut mercury emissions from another proposed plant, Plant Washington. The victory is part of a settlement agreed to by SACE and our allies following a joint appeal to Georgia’s Environmental Protection Division’s (EPD) air permit for Plant Washington. Now, if Plant Washington is ever constructed, it will be the first in the Southeast required to meet EPA’s new public health regulations for mercury emissions, which cut emissions to 1/40th of what they would have been before our challenge. As icing on the cake, the four P4G member co-ops are also planning to invest $5 million in energy savings and renewable programs over five years. The agreement leaves Plant Washington, now one of the last remaining coal plant proposals in the country, on more tenuous footing than ever. Due to the timing of when P4G would presumably have a final permit in hand, which is not until its amended permit application goes through EPD’s 30-day public comment process, P4G should be subject to newly-proposed rules on new sources of carbon pollution. To delay the required compliance with these rules, P4G would have needed to secure a final permit before they were officially published on April 13 – a deadline it missed – AND they would have needed to begin construction within one year. Since Plant Washington is not designed to capture its carbon emissions, meeting these proposed rules could be a deal-breaker. SACE believes this new agreement sends a clear message to those who continue to support Plant Washington: using coal for power is increasingly expensive as regulations mount, and the public are the ones who will pay this price. Hopefully the outcome of this settlement will encourage the remaining electric membership corporations (EMCs) involved in Plant Washington to look into cleaner, more affordable ways to provide electricity to their members. SACE will continue to work with our allies to monitor the situation very closely over the coming weeks, and we encourage you to check out our blog for updates on any new developments.
4. Making a Difference with Energy Efficiency
TVA study shows efficiency can eliminate load growthEnergy efficiency is an important resource that utilities in the United States have been using for at least 30 years, and we are excited to share some good news. TVA recently conducted a potential study to evaluate the impacts efficiency could have on their energy production and load growth, also known as the increase in demand for electricity. According to the results released earlier this year, energy efficiency could completely offset load growth between now and 2016! The chart above illustrates how significant energy efficiency could be as a resource for TVA between now and 2016. The orange bars represent cumulative load growth from 2012 to 2016, and the blue bars represent the two efficiency options the TVA study evaluated, high and low efficiency potential. As you can see, from 2012 to 2016, efficiency could provide more than twice the energy needed for TVA’s system, based on the projected load growth in the study. TVA’s EE potential study also estimates that, in 2015, the high achievable potential will cost approximately $452 million, and save 7500 gigawatt hours (GWh) of energy. While this is a significant amount of money, it doesn’t compare to the cost of a new nuclear or coal facility. For example, Watts Bar 2, TVA’s still-under-construction nuclear facility that isn’t expected to come online until 2015 or 2016, is projected to cost $6.2 billion and generate ~8700 GWh of energy annually.Of course $452 million worth of energy efficiency versus $6.2 billion in nuclear power isn’t technically an apples-to-apples comparison. For example, the benefits of energy efficiency measures are usually rated to last between five and thirty years. In contrast, nuclear plants may last far longer – but they also require operation, maintenance, upgrade and waste disposal costs that are rarely or never required for energy efficiency. Energy efficiency has been an often overlooked resource in the Southeast; however, the positive trajectory that TVA’s potential study found for energy efficiency as a resource is encouraging. Efficiency is an important part of our region’s energy portfolio, and we look forward to seeing the impact these results will have in the coming months.