Eyes on the Prize: EPA Moves Forward on Clean Energy Despite Paused Clean Power Plan

Guest Blog | May 13, 2016 | Climate Change, Coal, Energy Policy

As April came to an end, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sent a strong signal that it wasn’t going to let the current political and legal battle keep it from moving some of the voluntary parts of the Clean Power Plan forward.

EPA sent a proposal related to the voluntary early-action incentive program, known as the Clean Energy Incentive Program, to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for review – the next step in the policy-making process. EPA recognizes that technological innovation in the clean energy sector is driving development of clean energy resources and if EPA wants to keep pace with the growing science, it must continuing moving forward. Utilities and regulators should take a cue from EPA and continue to work together to reduce the overall carbon footprint of the Southeast’s electricity sector – or risk being left behind. 

In our own Southeast region, we’ve seen utilities moving forward with planned renewable energy projects (Georgia Power’s 44 MW solar farm in Albany, GA) and announcing new projects (TVA’s 53 MW project in Millington, TN), even though the Clean Power Plan was put on hold by an unprecedented move from the Supreme Court earlier this year. This continued development of clean energy resources in our region is evidence that utilities recognize the importance of reducing the carbon intensity of their generation resources and the continually improving economics of clean energy resources.

As EPA said in its statement when it announced it had submitted the early-action proposal to OMB for review:

“Many states and tribes have indicated that they plan to move forward voluntarily to work to cut carbon pollution from power plants and have asked the agency to continue providing support and developing tools that may support those efforts, including the [incentive program].”

It is clear that EPA is taking a cue from the technology sector’s continual forward movement around clean energy technology and moving forward itself with its goal of reducing carbon emissions from our national energy sector to 32% below 2005 emission levels by 2030. 

Although we do not know the particulars of the proposal yet, it’s aimed at creating a way for states to earn early-action emission reduction credit for clean energy projects currently underway that can be used once the Clean Power Plan is upheld and implemented – giving these states a large economic advantage in our inevitably lower-carbon energy future.

OMB usually takes less than 60 days to review a proposal, but it can take longer if it needs/wants. Once OMB approves EPA’s proposal, the agency will release it for public comment – just one more step along the path to effective climate policy. Stay tuned for more!

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