States can benefit economically by using wind power to meet new EPA carbon rule for electric power plants
Jul 29 2014
The first-ever federal regulation on carbon pollution from existing electric power plants can be an economic boon to wind-rich states if they meet them by developing more wind energy, the industry’s trade association will testify tonight in Washington, D.C.
WASHINGTON – The first-ever federal regulation on carbon pollution from existing electric power plants can be an economic boon to wind-rich states if they meet them by developing more wind energy, the industry’s trade association will testify tonight in Washington, D.C.
Electricity generated from a wind farm in one location lets a utility reduce generation from fossil fuels (and carbon output) in another location, according to Tom Vinson, Vice President for Federal Regulatory Affairs at the American Wind Energy Association. The rules allow states and regions the flexibility to recognize that.
Vinson is scheduled to testify at 7:40 pm tonight at the local EPA hearing on the administration’s Clean Power Plan in Washington, D.C. AWEA represents 1,000 businesses involved in all aspects of wind energy in the United States, including project development, operations, manufacturing, and financing.
“Overall, AWEA strongly supports the draft rule proposed by the EPA,” Vinson says in his prepared statement. “EPA rightfully follows the lead of dozens of states, many leading power plant owners, and various regions of our country that have already embraced the carbon reduction, economic development, and job creation opportunities of renewable energy…The resulting emissions reductions contribute equally to the goal of mitigating climate change and protecting the public health and welfare.” A full copy of Vinson’s testimony is available at this link.
EPA field hearings this week in Denver, Pittsburgh, and Atlanta will hear from companies that develop wind power and regional advocates for more renewable energy.
“Wind energy provides a substantial opportunity as a reliable and affordable compliance option under the draft rule,” Bruce Burcat, executive director of the Mid-Atlantic Renewable Energy Coalition, will testify. He notes that a recent study by PJM, the regional grid operator for 13 Mid-Atlantic and Midwestern states and the District of Columbia, found that wind energy could power 30 percent of its power grid, “while reducing wholesale prices by billions of dollars annually.”
Sarah Cottrell Propst, executive director of the Interwest Energy Alliance, representing renewable energy companies and advocates Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming, will testify that, “the rule will ensure reductions of dangerous emissions, and send a strong market signal to the private sector to invest in home-grown renewable energy.” She says that “to encourage early efforts to reduce emissions and capture the economic benefits of advanced energy growth as soon as possible, EPA’s final rule should give full credit to emissions reductions achieved by projects qualified under the state’s initial compliance plan that are completed prior to 2020.” Her full testimony is available here.
John Shultzabarger, a Director of Development with EDF Renewable Energy, a leading developer of wind and solar power, will support the rule for allowing renewable energy as a compliance option for helping states meet their carbon reduction requirements, setting interim targets, allowing multi-state collaboration, and endorsing state renewable electricity standards.
He also notes the savings to ratepayers: “In Colorado, the state’s leading electric utility, Xcel Energy, has utilized significant amounts of solar and wind generation as essential components of a least-cost portfolio for ratepayers,” he will testify.
Vinson and AWEA’s member companies and regional partners agree and will testify that, while they support the draft rule, “the final rule can and should require emissions reductions that go further than proposed in the draft rule, particularly in light of the lengthy compliance period.”
Wind energy is already producing significant carbon emissions reductions. AWEA used EPA’s AVERT model to calculate that the current fleet of wind turbines reduced carbon emissions in 2013 by nearly 127 million tons, the equivalent of reducing power sector emissions more than 5 percent, or taking 20 million cars off the road. Eleven states are achieving reductions of 10 percent or more due to wind energy alone, with three additional states just under that threshold.
These reductions have been achieved while benefitting electricity consumers and the economy as a whole. The U.S. wind industry:
- Has attracted an average of $15 billion a year of private investment into new wind farms over the past five years, which are now in 39 states and Puerto Rico;
- Supports more than 50,000 U.S. jobs and more than 550 manufacturing facilities in 44 states;
- Has reduced costs by 43 percent in four years, according to DOE’s Market Technologies Report, with further cost reductions expected to be verified when the report is updated next month.
According to AWEA, electric rates have increased less than half as much in the 10 states with the most wind energy compared to the 40 that have lesser amounts or none. And, wind energy is reliable, already providing more than 25% of the electricity in two states and 10% or more in nine states – and at times, nearly 40% of the electricity generation on the main Texas grid and over 60% on the main Colorado power system.
Wind energy is rapidly scalable. Since the end of 2005, wind energy has doubled its capacity in the U.S. on average every 36 months, including a record 13 GW of new wind energy capacity in 2012. The U.S. DOE is expected to release an updated assessment of its wind energy vision later this year. In preliminary findings posted on the DOE website, the agency reports:
- 10% wind by 2020 would reduce power sector emissions by 9%, while 20% wind by 2030 would reduce emissions by 23%.
- Additional savings benefits would accrue from reducing other pollutants and conserving water as a result of wind energy deployment at these levels;
- This would also create 230,000 direct and 175,000 induced jobs by 2030, and result in long-term savings to consumers and a lowering of electric system-wide costs.
For these reasons, as well as others, wind energy can and should play an even larger role going forward in terms of carbon emissions reductions.
AWEA will submit detailed comments elaborating on these and other points in advance of the October deadline for public comments on the new rules.