CRS Report Finds that the Clean Power Plan (If Implemented) Would Result in Substantial Declines in Carbon Dioxide Emissions

In a report published last week, the Congressional Research Service (CRS) concluded that the Clean Power Plan (CPP), if implemented, would create substantially greater declines in CO2 emissions than a business-as-usual scenario.  The report, entitled U.S. Carbon Dioxide Emissions Trends and Projections: Role of the Clean Power Plan and Other Factors, found that: (i) CO2 emissions in the electric power sector have declined since 2010, while electricity generation remained constant; and (ii) although CO2 emissions in the electricity sector are expected to continue declining if current trends continue, those declines would be substantially greater if the CPP were implemented.  EPA projections, for example, indicate that the CPP would reduce emissions in the electricity sector by 32% below 2005 levels by 2030, as compared to a 16% reduction in CO2 levels under its baseline scenario where the CPP is not implemented.  That amounts to an additional reduction of 377 million metric tons of CO2 if the CPP is implemented.

Published just two days before the U.S. withdrew from its commitments under the Paris Agreement, and amidst ongoing litigation over the Rule that is now being held in abeyance, the report seeks to inform policymakers on current trends and future projections of U.S. GHG emissions, and to compare scenarios where the CPP is implemented versus one where it is not.  The report observes that “[a] question for policymakers is whether U.S. GHG emissions will remain at current levels, decrease . . . or increase toward former (or even higher) levels.”

The report explains that CO2 emissions from the combustion of fossil fuels account for 77% of U.S. GHG emissions.  The electric power sector contributes 35% of the total CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion, second only to the transportation sector.  Historically, electricity generation and CO2 emissions have been positively correlated, but in 2010 that trend decoupled: while electricity generation remained constant, CO2 emissions from the electric power sector decreased.  In 2016, electricity generation was equivalent to that in 2005, but CO2 emissions were 25% below 2005 levels.

This decrease in emissions was the result of several factors including changes in the U.S. electricity portfolio to include less coal, and more natural gas and renewables.  If those trends continue, CO2 emissions in the electric power sector will continue to decrease, even in a scenario where the CPP is not implemented.  “Assuming this were to occur, some might question the importance of the CPP in terms of meeting U.S. GHG emissions goals,” the report points out.   But based on models from EPA, the Energy Information Administration, and other analyses by non-governmental groups, the report concludes that the “CPP would have a substantial impact on future CO2 emissions levels.”

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Department of Energy Asks: What Regulations Would You Repeal?

The DOE has issued a Request for Information that seeks public input on “identifying existing regulations, paperwork requirements and other regulatory obligations” for possible modification or repeal as part of DOE’s implementation of the “One-In, Two-Out” executive order.  That executive order has two main directives: it sets a “Regulatory Cap” for the fiscal year 2017 and establishes “Annual Regulatory Cost Submissions to the Office of Management and Budget” for the fiscal year 2018 and beyond.  Both of these directives instruct agencies to identify two regulatory actions to repeal for every new regulatory action they propose.

In addition to soliciting comments that identify specific regulations for possible repeal, the Request for Information includes a list of broader questions designed to help DOE identify the regulations on which it should immediately focus.  These questions are:

(1) How can DOE best promote meaningful regulatory cost reduction while achieving its regulatory objectives, and how can it best identify those rules that might be modified, streamlined, or repealed?

(2) What factors should DOE consider in selecting and prioritizing rules and reporting requirements for reform?

(3) How can DOE best obtain and consider accurate, objective information and data about the costs, burdens, and benefits of existing regulations? Are there existing sources of data DOE can use to evaluate the post-promulgation effects of regulations over time? We invite interested parties to provide data that may be in their possession that documents the costs, burdens, and benefits of existing requirements.

(4) Are there regulations that simply make no sense or have become unnecessary, ineffective, or ill-advised and if so what are they? Are there rules that can simply be repealed without impairing DOE’s statutory obligations and, if so, what are they?

(5) Are there rules or reporting requirements that have become outdated and, if so, how can they be modernized to better accomplish their objective?

(6) Are there rules that are still necessary, but have not operated as well as expected such that a modified, or slightly different approach at lower cost is justified?

(7) Are there rules of the Department that unnecessarily obstruct, delay, curtail, or otherwise impose significant costs on the siting, permitting, production, utilization, transmission, or delivery of energy resources?

(8) Does DOE currently collect information that it does not need or use effectively?

(9) Are there regulations, reporting requirements, or regulatory processes that are unnecessarily complicated or could be streamlined to achieve statutory obligations in more efficient ways?

(10) Are there rules or reporting requirements that have been overtaken by technological developments? Can new technologies be leveraged to modify, streamline, or do away with existing regulatory or reporting requirements?

(11) Does the methodology and data used in analyses supporting DOE’s regulations meet the requirements of the Information Quality Act?

DOE has requested written comments and information by July 14, 2017.  The public can submit comments, either for this specific Request for Information or on an ongoing basis, to Regulatory.Review@hq.doe.gov.

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U.S. to Withdraw from Paris Agreement; States and Local Governments Vow to Step Up

Yesterday, President Trump announced that the U.S. will withdraw from the Paris Agreement.  Citing concerns about job loss, reduced economic productivity, and costs to taxpayers, President Trump stated that the U.S. would “cease all implementation” of the Paris Agreement.  The President added that he would be willing to re-enter the Paris Agreement, or a separate agreement, under newly negotiated terms.

Shortly after the announcement, the governors of California, New York, and Washington announced the formation of the United States Climate Alliance, a new coalition of states committed to upholding the Paris Agreement and taking action against climate change.  Similarly, 86 mayors announced their intention to uphold the goals of the Paris Agreement.

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New Report Tracks States’ Grid Modernization Efforts

The NC Clean Energy Technology Center has released its 50 States of Grid Modernization Report for the first quarter of 2017.  This is the first report in what will be an ongoing quarterly series.  Grid modernization is a broad term referring to efforts to use new technologies and policies to make the electric system more interactive and responsive, and this report catalogues grid modernization efforts at the state level.  Specifically, the report covers “(1) smart grid and advanced metering infrastructure, (2) utility business model reform, (3) regulatory reform, (4) utility rate reform, (5) energy storage, (6) microgrids, and (7) demand response.”  It does not include actions related to pumped hydroelectric storage projects, electric vehicles, or distributed generation customers (although this last topic is covered in a separate report).

The 50 States of Grid Modernization Report tracks states’ “actions,” which it defines as proposed legislation (which may ultimately be signed into law, be defeated, or remain pending) and regulatory dockets, cases, and rulemaking proceedings.  These actions must be statewide, and the report only tracks those actions related to investor-owned utilities (meaning that municipal utilities and cooperatives are not included in this report).  The report found that 37 states and the District of Columbia have engaged in at least one grid modernization action in the first quarter of 2017.  The report groups these actions into six categories:

  • Studies and Investigations. In the first quarter of 2017, sixteen states and D.C. undertook investigations related to grid modernization issues, including broad grid modernization proceedings in Illinois and Ohio.  Legislators in Colorado, Maryland, and New Jersey proposed bills to require studies of energy storage, and proposed legislation in Hawaii would require an independent third party to establish initial grid modernization plan.
  • Planning and Market Access. The report notes that twelve states considered changes to the utility planning process and state regulations pertaining to market access; six of these states considered changes to their integrated resource planning process, while three states focused on distribution system planning.
  • Utility Business Model and Rate Reform. Thirteen states took eighteen actions related to reforming utility rate design, regulatory structures, or utility business models.  Half of these actions related to time-varying rates.
  • Financial Incentives for Energy Storage and Advanced Grid Technologies. Eleven states had 25 actions ongoing or under consideration relating to grid modernization financial incentives.  Notably, during the first quarter of 2017 Maryland became the first state to enact a tax credit for energy storage.
  • Deployment of Advanced Grid Technologies. In the first quarter of 2017, there were 36 pending or decided proposals from state legislators or utilities to deploy advanced grid technologies.  Over half of these instances involved advanced metering infrastructure and over half of U.S. households have advanced metering technology.  By comparison, there were seven proposed deployments of energy storage projects.
  • Grid Modernization Policies.  This is somewhat of a catchall category, which includes policies such as energy storage targets, clean peak standards, and advanced metering infrastructure rules.  The report found that sixteen states took 29 actions on grid modernization policies during this time.
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DOE to Fund Tribal Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Projects

Yesterday, May 30, 2017, the Department of Energy Office of Indian Energy Policy and Programs announced that it has awarded nineteen Tribes funding to implement renewable energy (RE) and energy efficiency (EE) projects on tribal lands.

In its announcement, DOE explained the awards will assist communities with “conduct[ing] energy options analyses; establish[ing] baseline energy use and efficiency options; develop[ing] energy organizations; conduct[ing] resiliency planning; establish[ing] policy, regulations, and codes; and obtain[ing] skills and training to promote energy efficiency and development.”

The recipients include: Akiachak Native Community, Bear River Band of Rohnerville Rancheria, Bishop Paiute Tribe, Forest County Potawatomi Community, Karuk Tribe, Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians, Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe, Makah Tribe, Native Village of Atmautluak, Native Village of Kwigillingok, Oneida Indian Nation, Pala Band of Mission Indians, Pascua Yaqui Tribe, Pechanga Band of Luiseño Mission Indians, Pueblo of Acoma, Samish Indian Nation, San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, Village of Aniak, and Yurok Tribe of the Yurok Reservation, California.

The awardees and a description of their projects can be found here.

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