Handbook outlines path for wind and solar to meet Clean Power Plan requirements 

Source: Daniel Cusick, E&E reporter • Posted: Wednesday, April 1, 2015

The nation’s two largest renewable energy trade groups are offering a road map for states to meet emissions requirements under U.S. EPA’s Clean Power Plan through greater adoption of wind and solar power.

In a new 184-page document jointly published by the American Wind Energy Association and the Solar Energy Industries Association, officials say they are providing a “starting point for states that are considering renewable energy as a compliance tool” to help electric power producers meet tough new regulations aimed at reducing carbon dioxide from existing fossil plants.

Among the strategies laid out by EPA for meeting the Clean Power Plan rules are for states to seek dramatic improvements in energy efficiency while also shifting electricity generation away from carbon-intensive fuels like coal and oil in favor of emissions-free fuels like solar, wind and hydropower.

“This new handbook provides a helping hand to states, allowing them to capitalize on the economic and environmental benefits of renewable energy while diversifying their energy mix and lowering costs for consumers,” Tom Kiernan, AWEA’s chief executive officer, said in a statement.

He noted that wind energy has already cut carbon dioxide emissions in the power sector by more than 5 percent per year, “while growing U.S. manufacturing and generating tens of billions of dollars of investment, including in economically distressed rural areas.”

Renewable costs fall sharply in 5 years

Rhone Resch, SEIA’s president and CEO, said that the two technologies “can be real game changers” for states needing to cut carbon emissions from their electric power plants, noting that solar power helped offset more than 22 million metric tons of harmful carbon emissions in the United States last year.

If implemented, the Clean Power Plan seeks to cut power-sector carbon emissions by 30 percent between 2005 and 2030. States would be required to draft compliance plans by 2016 or 2018 unless they receive extensions from EPA. But at least three-fifths of the states have expressed concern about a number of the Clean Power Plan’s provisions, including interim compliance targets and the use of 2012 as a base line for making cuts.

But critics of EPA’s rule, which is expected to be finalized this summer, counter that the Clean Power Plan will effectively shut down many states’ baseload power plants, especially in coal-dependent regions, leaving utilities with massive electricity shortfalls that cannot be made up even with aggressive adoption of energy efficiency and renewable energy.

More than a dozen states have filed a lawsuit in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit asking for an “extraordinary writ” to block EPA from finalizing the rule (E&ENews PM, March 17). Oral arguments before a three-judge appeals court panel are expected April 16.

Such challenges have not dissuaded proponents of the plan, including renewable energy firms that stand to benefit from its implementation, from presenting themselves as problem solvers.

Among other things, the AWEA/SEIA handbook details the benefits of using renewable energy as a compliance tool, including benefits created by integrating low-cost wind and solar power into state power grids without compromising electric reliability.

“As noted in the handbook, wind energy’s costs have fallen by more than half in just five years and wind is considered by far the lowest cost generation option for reducing electric sector carbon emissions. Installed solar system prices, meanwhile, have dropped by 49 percent since 2010,” the organizations said.

The handbook also allows state regulators to calculate carbon reductions that can be gained from increased use of wind and solar energy, including specifics on how to track and credit those carbon offsets.