Two-For-One Deal: Efficiency and GHG Reductions

Two-For-One Deal: Efficiency and GHG Reductions

Gita Subramony for Zondits, May 4, 2014

President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, which he outlined in 2013, calls for reducing carbon pollution across the USA. As part of this plan, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is taking further steps towards regulating greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions through the Clean Air Act. A recent Supreme Court decision has bolstered the EPA’s authority to use the Clean Air Act to regulate pollutants.

Section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act allows the EPA to develop emission standards and require that states establish plans to reduce their emissions. The section also gives the EPA the authority to prescribe and enforce GHG emissions reduction plans for states that fail to submit or implement a satisfactory plan. Additionally, the EPA can use this section as the basis for rule-making and guidance on how much states can reduce their GHG emissions and how. The section does provide for states to adopt a variety of methods for compliance with the standards. Section 111(d) leaves the door open for using low-cost energy efficiency as an emissions reduction strategy.

The ACEEE has recently released a report outlining how the EPA can use 111(d) to promote end-use energy efficiency as a strategy for complying with GHG emissions reductions. The report provides an overview of how energy efficiency can be used to comply with the Clean Air Act and the benefits of using such an approach.

The report indicates that energy efficiency’s low cost compared to other energy resources such as wind, natural gas, coal, solar PV, and nuclear generation makes it a great way to comply with the GHG regulations. Other studies have examined program administrator costs and have quantified dollars spent per kWh saved; these studies continue to show that efficiency is still cheaper than new generation. In addition to lowering electricity service costs, efficiency also reduces pollution at no additional cost. Compared to other technology-based methods for reducing carbon emissions, efficiency is much cheaper. Additionally, many states already have energy efficiency initiatives in place. Strengthening these existing programs could result in deeper energy savings, which can lower energy costs for end users, promote grid reliability, and further reduce emissions.

The report provides recommendations on policies states could adopt, and it analyzes the pollution impacts based on implementing these strategies. The policies include: setting an energy savings target, adoption of building codes with energy efficiency provisions, investment in combined heat and power (CHP) systems, and setting equipment energy efficiency standards.

The report emphasizes the resounding usefulness of energy efficiency by demonstrating that the recommended strategies could result in 600 million tons of avoided CO2 pollution; the creation of 611,000 jobs; and cumulative energy savings of 7,247 million MWh.

The report also provides additional details on certain states that are active in energy efficiency. Specifically, the report calls out Ohio’s goal of reaching a savings target of 25% by 2025; unfortunately, this savings target is currently under attack from legislators with ties to fossil-fuel interests.

Zondits already thinks energy efficiency is a wonderful thing; this report further emphasizes how efficiency can save consumers money, spur job growth, and help maintain our clean air standards.