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Solar Policy

A Breath of Fresh Air: The Clean Power Plan

 

U.S. Presidents have historically championed conservation efforts, focusing on protecting nature and her resources. No President better exemplified these ideals than Theodore Roosevelt. In his seventh annual message to congress on December 3rd, 1907, he stated “We are prone to speak of the resources of this country as inexhaustible; this is not so. The mineral wealth of the country, the coal, iron, oil, gas, and the like, does not reproduce itself, and therefore is certain to be exhausted ultimately; and wastefulness in dealing with it today means that our descendants will feel the exhaustion a generation or two before they otherwise would.”Oil, coal, and gas have been a cheaper alternative to renewable energy for some time, but their reign is coming to an end. Advancements in solar energy technology have made it cheaper than coal, and far superior when all of the cost externalities of coal are taken into consideration (e.g. clean air and water, fewer deaths, reduced greenhouse gases).

On August 3rd, 2015, President Obama enacted the Clean Power Plan (CPP) with the help of the Environmental Protection Agency. This plan marks a historic step towards reducing carbon pollution from power plants, while maintaining energy reliability and affordability. For the first time as a nation, standards are set to significantly cut the amount of power plant carbon pollution, other pollutants that create soot, and smog, all of which harm our health. This is the strongest stance the U.S. has taken in protecting our environment and our health from pollution. The ultimate goal is to ensure that fossil fuel-fired power plants will operate more cleanly and efficiently, while bolstering renewables, such as solar energy, to become even larger generators in supplying the nation’s demand.

Once the CPP is fulfilled in 2030, carbon pollution from the power sector will be 32% below 2005 levels. This historically low level of pollution will avoid 3,600 premature deaths, 1,700 heart attacks, and 90,000 asthma attacks in 2030, and every year beyond. Other externalized costs include climate benefits of $20 billion, health assets of $14-34 billion, and net benefits of $26-45 billion. By viewing the relationship between the environment and our health, we are reminded that the health of the planet positively correlates with the health of the people; stewardship for our nation’s land will result in better health for our fellow Americans for generations to come.

To achieve the CPP goals, the EPA and states must work together. The EPA will set an interim target and a final carbon dioxide emission performance rate goal for fossil fuel-fired and natural gas-fired power plants. Each state will have a different goal based on their type of power plants in operation. States can go with the “emission standards plan”, which requires that all affected power plants within the state meet their required performance rates, or the “state measures plan” that includes a mixture of measures and targets determined by the state. Both plans require the implementation of emissions trading, credits for a rate-based standard, or allowances for a mass-based standard, a market-based policy tool that creates a financial incentive to reduce emissions. States with mature Solar Renewable Energy Credit (SREC) markets have utilized a type of “state measures plan” that consists of renewable energy standards with specific carve-outs for solar energy. Now the rest of the nation will follow suit, bringing solar energy to every corner of the U.S.

Each state’s plan requires provisions that allow the state to measure their progress toward meeting the 2030 goal. These plans will create new markets, perhaps very similar to what is seen in the SREC markets in New Jersey and Massachusetts, and may produce compelling financial opportunities for those that make early investments in solar energy. California and New York have already announced renewable energy standards that aim for 50% electrical generation coming from renewable energy sources by 2030. As state plans come online, we will collectively ensure that we slow the consumption of the “mineral wealth of [our] country.”

For more information about solar programs in your state, or how solar can positively impact the environment, contact EnterSolar at (888)-225-0270.

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