Iowa still analyzing how wind can help meet carbon goals

Source: Jeffrey Tomich, E&E reporter • Posted: Friday, September 18, 2015

Six weeks after U.S. EPA released its final Clean Power Plan, regulators in Iowa are still analyzing the 1,500-page rule and how it treats the state’s 5,000-plus megawatts of wind generation.

Questions about wind, particularly those projects installed prior to 2013, remain a key issue as regulators continue to work through the 1,500-page rule and begin the process of developing a compliance strategy. More than 3,500 MW of wind was installed in the state between 2008 and 2012.

Under the final rule, wind capacity installed after 2012 counts toward the state’s carbon reduction efforts. But regulators are working with EPA to answer questions about how wind added in 2012 and before could help decide the state’s compliance approach.

“Our questions are, under a mass-based plan, could we, if we choose to do that, set aside allowances for projects constructed prior to 2013?” said Marnie Stein, the Section 111(d) project manager for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.

The agency is also working with EPA to determine whether wind capacity installed prior to 2013 counts toward lowering the carbon emissions starting point, since without it, Iowa would have relied more heavily on fossil fuels, Stein said.

The Iowa DNR last week hosted the first stakeholder meeting since the final rule was released on Aug. 3. The staff of the Iowa Utilities Board presented an overview of the rule and changes from the draft rule.

DNR determined that the number of fossil generating units affected by the new rule has declined from 42 to 37. According to a published list, a dozen of the 25 coal units subject to the rule have been or will be retired or converted to natural gas by the end of next year.

Another key change is the inclusion of a reliability safety valve in the final rule.

But the reliability mechanism is only triggered in the event of catastrophic or unforeseen events that threaten reliability, said Kerri Johannsen of the IUB staff. “It’s not just something that can be tripped very easily,” she said. “it has to be an unusual circumstance.”

The Natural Resources Defense Council in a recent analysis said Iowa’s compliance with the final rule is easily within reach if the state continues to add more wind generation as it has continued to do in recent years.

The analysis assumes new wind capacity in Iowa displaces coal-fired generation on a one-for-one basis, said Katharine McCormick, a Midwest advocate for NRDC. If the state chooses a mass-based compliance strategy, it would also require the retirement or conversion of coal-fired generation.

Like other states, Iowa also faces a decision whether to work together with other states or not.

IUB Commissioner Libby Jacobs is part of the Midcontinent States Environmental and Energy Regulators group, which has been meeting to discuss the potential for multistage cooperation. MSEER was scheduled to host a meeting yesterday.

Jacobs said Iowa has made no such determination about whether it will seek to trade allowances with other states. But “we felt very strongly all along that we needed to be at the table in those discussions,” she said.