NRDC proposal calls on EPA to regulate power plant CO2 emissions

By Erin Voegele | December 05, 2012

The National Resources Defense Council has unveiled a proposal to cut carbon emissions from U.S. power plants. The proposal, which calls on the U.S. EPA to set standards under the Clean Air Act for existing power plants, includes proposed roles for biomass and other renewable energy technologies.

According to the NRDC, the proposal enables states and power plants to use a wide range of existing technologies, including energy efficiency and renewable energy, to cost-effectively meet carbon reduction standards while creating thousands of clean energy jobs. Under the proposal, states would have broad flexibility to design their own plans to meet standards.

“We are overturning the conventional wisdom that reducing carbon pollution through the Clean Air Act would be ineffective and expensive,” said Dan Lashof, NRDC’s director of Climate and Clean Air programs, and a principal author of the plan.  “We show that the EPA can work with states and power companies to make large pollution reductions, by setting system-wide standards, rather than smokestack-by-smokestack ones, and by giving power companies and states the freedom to choose the most cost-saving means of compliance.”

Overall, the NRDC estimates that its plan could reduce carbon emissions from power plants by 26 percent by 2020 and 34 percent by 2025. The plan is also projected to cost approximately $4 billion in 2020 to implement, but will save American’s between $25 billion and $60 billion, while also stimulating more than $90 billion in renewable energy and energy efficiency investments over the next eight years.

Under the plan, carbon emissions reductions could be achieved in several ways, including by improving combustion efficiency, burning cleaner fuels, or installing carbon capture and storage. Additional emissions reductions actions contained within the plan including shifting generation to lower emitting plants and expanding energy efficiency. In addition, states would have the freedom to adopt alternative approaches, as long as they are effective in cutting emissions.

Regarding biomass, the proposal suggests that one way existing power plants could reduce their carbon emissions is by fuel switching, or cofiring with cleaner fuels, such as biomass. NRDC projections show that under its plan, biomass could generate 38 terawatt hours (TWh) of power per year by 2020. In addition, renewables other than hydro, wind, and biomass, could contribute 95 TWh of power to the market.

A full copy of the proposal is available on the NRDC website