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Arizona Solar Center Blog

Commentary from Arizona Solar Center Board Members and invited contributors.

While blog entries are initiated by the Solar Center, we welcome dialogue around the posted topics. Your expertise and perspective are highly valued -- so if you haven't logged in and contributed, please do so!

The Clean Energy Story of 2014: There is No Planet B

The biggest clean energy story in 2014 may well be our Story of the Year again come next December: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan.

The Clean Power Plan, also known as 111(d), is good news for both the climate and the clean energy sector.

In June 2014, the EPA released its Clean Power Plan proposal, which for the first time would mandate carbon emission cuts from legacy power plants. The new regulations would require U.S. electricity producers to cut emissions from power plants up to 30 percent by 2030 from 2005 levels.  In Arizona, the proposed goal is one of the strictest in the country, with the emission reduction target exceeding 50 percent.

While the Arizona number has many in the state irate, many others believe the Clean Power Plan is long overdue, and as such signals a defining moment for energy production in the US. But regardless of what form the final rules eventually take, carbon emissions will decline in the US.

clean-power-plan.jpg

Natural gas and clean energy technologies are leading the path forward in reducing emissions in a very significant and cost-effective way. And as a result, coal-fired power plants’ contribution to our energy mix is declining, and could be phased out completely in the future. 

This trend is gathering steam and no amount of political rhetoric will prevent the EPA from releasing its final rule this June -- not even the post-election vow by new U.S. Senate Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell to kill the rule before it can be implemented.

Although the final rule will assuredly be tweaked from the proposal announced last summer, as evidenced by the more than two-million comments submitted during the comment period, don’t mistake these tweaks for anything more than what they are – the EPA trying to get it right the first time.  After all, the EPA's foundational authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act is rock solid. Dating back to the 5-4 Supreme Court ruling in 2007 that greenhouse gases qualify as an air pollutant, the EPA is undefeated in challenges to its authority to regulate power plant pollution. 

In view of this, Arizona officials should reassess their campaign to eliminate incentives and mandates for energy efficiency and renewable energy.  Both are building blocks that will help Arizona reach its carbon emission mandate, regardless of whether our compliance number is 50 percent, or 30 percent.

The bottom line is clear for all to see -- natural gas, renewables and energy efficiency are the answer to how electric power companies can reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

This summer the EPA will announce its final Clean Power Plan rule, and states will have one year to submit a compliance plan.  The cost of not submitting a plan is a risky strategy for states wanting to challenge the federal government: If a state doesn’t submit a plan, the EPA has the authority to write the state’s plan for them.  Also, delay is an unattractive option unless one wants to risk severe financial penalties for failing to meet reduction mandates.  Thumbing one’s nose at the EPA will prove to be an expensive gamble, both financially and environmentally. Besides, there is ample evidence that the requirements proposed in the Clean Power Plan are not only affordable, but they can actually spur tremendous economic growth. 

In the end, wagging a finger in the face of the EPA or causing unnecessary delay to the planning process is not in anybody’s best interest.  Poll after poll going back to 2000 demonstrate strong public support for government action to reduce carbon emissions to fight climate change.  It is a sentiment that is not lost on corporate America: last month, more than 220 major American companies signed a letter supporting the EPA’s plan.

As we close the book on 2014, we look forward to a year where the big story isn’t the attacks on Arizona’s clean energy policies, but rather Arizona’s efforts to strengthen its energy efficiency and renewable energy policies and thereby reduce our CO2 emissions.

Happy New Year!

Jim Arwood
Communications Director
Arizona Solar Center

Question:

What do you consider the biggest solar energy news story in 2014?

The Year In Review - 2014
Rooftop Solar Users: M-m-m-my Generation

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Comments 4

Russell Lowes on Sunday, 04 January 2015 11:05

Hi Jim,
You write, "The bottom line is clear for all to see -- natural gas, renewables and energy efficiency are the answer to how electric power companies can reduce their greenhouse gas emissions."
I do not think it is reasonable to include gas as a transition strategy. Fossil and nuclear energy will fade as we bring in the new 21st Century solutions. I would replace "natural gas, renewables and energy efficiency" in your quote above with "energy efficiency, renewables, energy storage and demand-side management."
The Denver Region study (the region extends to Wyoming from the Denver Area), shows how increased methane there can be traced to fracking (not the same gaseous ratios as agriculture or other industries). The IPCC states that methane is over 20X the potency of CO2. The furtive emissions from fracking are not quantified, but have been shown to be at least 1.5X that of EPA estimates (probably much more). Over 30% of our gas is now fracked in the U.S.
Gas was thought to be a good transition fuel by the Sierra Club. Numerous studies has caused the SC to reverse course on this. It is only a matter of time before many others will reverse course on this gas-as-a-bridge approach.

Hi Jim, You write, "The bottom line is clear for all to see -- natural gas, renewables and energy efficiency are the answer to how electric power companies can reduce their greenhouse gas emissions." I do not think it is reasonable to include gas as a transition strategy. Fossil and nuclear energy will fade as we bring in the new 21st Century solutions. I would replace "natural gas, renewables and energy efficiency" in your quote above with "energy efficiency, renewables, energy storage and demand-side management." The Denver Region study (the region extends to Wyoming from the Denver Area), shows how increased methane there can be traced to fracking (not the same gaseous ratios as agriculture or other industries). The IPCC states that methane is over 20X the potency of CO2. The furtive emissions from fracking are not quantified, but have been shown to be at least 1.5X that of EPA estimates (probably much more). Over 30% of our gas is now fracked in the U.S. Gas was thought to be a good transition fuel by the Sierra Club. Numerous studies has caused the SC to reverse course on this. It is only a matter of time before many others will reverse course on this gas-as-a-bridge approach.
Guest - Terry Finefrock on Monday, 05 January 2015 15:44

Agree with Russ...natural gas when mined emits methane, traps 26 times more radiant energy than coal combustion GHG...and its a GLOBAL commodity...price volatile..."Cocaine of the Utility Industry"....get you hooked then charge more....China, Asia, Japan paying 4-5x more than North America, doesn't cost near that much to liquefy-transport....what do you think that will do to supply...to whom do you think North American gas traders will sell(highest margin)....not good idea to waste capital on fixed, long life gas, won't be able to run to full depreciation...unless of course you can charge the losses off to someone else(ACC Ratepayers?)

Agree with Russ...natural gas when mined emits methane, traps 26 times more radiant energy than coal combustion GHG...and its a GLOBAL commodity...price volatile..."Cocaine of the Utility Industry"....get you hooked then charge more....China, Asia, Japan paying 4-5x more than North America, doesn't cost near that much to liquefy-transport....what do you think that will do to supply...to whom do you think North American gas traders will sell(highest margin)....not good idea to waste capital on fixed, long life gas, won't be able to run to full depreciation...unless of course you can charge the losses off to someone else(ACC Ratepayers?)
Jim Stack on Saturday, 17 January 2015 11:20

also agree with Russ. The US hit peak NG in 2004 and was importing and building platforms to get compressed NG from other countries. Fracking changed that and not for the better.
The biggest Solar news is the SunPower 20%+ solar panels. Just like the interest on an investment higher is better and compounds. SunPower also have the amazing C7 concentrated system they put in at ASU polytechnic and it's a world leader.

The BAD news is Solar is so good power companies are now fighting it. This video is very good and clear.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1RYKNA3nj6Q

also agree with Russ. The US hit peak NG in 2004 and was importing and building platforms to get compressed NG from other countries. Fracking changed that and not for the better. The biggest Solar news is the SunPower 20%+ solar panels. Just like the interest on an investment higher is better and compounds. SunPower also have the amazing C7 concentrated system they put in at ASU polytechnic and it's a world leader. The BAD news is Solar is so good power companies are now fighting it. This video is very good and clear. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1RYKNA3nj6Q
Cassey on Sunday, 08 March 2015 23:58

I don't agree natural gas would be considered as a clean energy while we have many alternative resources that could help reduce green house gas emissions such as wind power, solar power or even nuclear power...

I don't agree natural gas would be considered as a clean energy while we have many alternative resources that could help reduce green house gas emissions such as wind power, solar power or even nuclear power...
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