President Obama and the EPA recently announced the final version of the Clean Power Plan, the centerpiece of the Obama administration’s plan to alter the dangerous impact human activity has had relative to climate change. It’s a historic beginning. The Clean Power Plan is designed to be innovative in its treatment of energy efficiency as an important compliance element in avoiding carbon emissions from power plants. EPA projects the plan will have significant economic and human health benefits for the United States, translating into taking 166 million cars off the road, 30% more renewable energy, tens of thousands of jobs, and consumer savings of $155 billion between 2020 and 2030.
Power plants are the largest stationary source of carbon emissions in the United States. But until now, these climate-disrupting emissions haven’t been regulated for existing plants. The Clean Power Plan sets targets for each state to decrease carbon emissions from fossil fuel power plants, but wisely lets each state design its own roadmap for reaching these targets. States must generally submit plans by 2016, or, including extensions, no later than 2018. As it has done similarly with other successful environmental regulation, the Obama administration has proposed a federal plan that serves as a potential template for state plans. Importantly, the final Clean Power Plan includes provisions for states to receive credit for early action in renewables investment and low income efficiency. The compliance period will begin in 2022.
“We’ve been working with states and power companies to make sure that they’ve got the flexibility they need to cut this pollution, all while lowering energy bills, ensuring reliable service, and paving the way for new, job-creating innovations that help America lead the world forward,” President Obama has said.
The U.S. Green Building Council's Performance Excellence in Electricity Renewal (PEER) is a rating and certification program for power systems that aligns with President Obama’s goals for the use of clean power within the United States. Specifically, PEER is an effective tool that can help affected electric utilities assess investments and optimize their systems in ways that will support compliance with state-imposed emission standards. PEER encourages power plants to lower source energy and carbon emissions intensity, reduce system losses, establish district energy systems and promote local renewable generation. PEER guides project teams toward solutions that improve energy efficiency, identify and eliminate waste and engage customers in reducing their own electricity use. All of this efficiency results in carbon reductions that can help meet Clean Power Plan targets.
The Clean Power Plan promises to reduce carbon pollution by 32% over 2005 levels by 2030. PEER certification presents a perfect way for utilities and microgrid operators to get started on compliance with the Clean Power Plan by engaging with a dynamic, adaptive process aimed at creating more sustainable power systems. It’s a multipurpose tool in our toolkit to combat climate change, offering an entire category of strategies intended to improve reliability and resiliency, as well as other co-benefits to systems.
As President Obama last month, “Right now we're inventing whole new technologies, whole new industries. We're not looking backwards, we're looking forwards. And if we don't do it, nobody will.”