ECPA Fellows Comment on U.S. Plan to Cut Carbon Pollution

Monday, July 07, 2014

Proposed rules to reduce carbon emissions from U.S. power plants provide innovative, flexible ways to address the negative impacts of climate change, according to

several energy experts who participate in the Senior ECPA Fellows Program.

Under guidelines announced by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on June 2, states must identify their own paths

President Obama called the proposed EPA rules “a sensible, state-based plan that provides states a wide range of options in terms of achieving their goals, but makes sure that we are reducing the carbon pollution that hurts the health of our kids, and the health of the planet, while also giving us enormous opportunities to grow and improve the economy in all sorts of ways.” forward to meet certain targets by 2030—including a cut in carbon emissions from power plants by 30 percent over 2005 levels. Power plants are the largest single source of carbon pollution in the United States, accounting for one-third of all the country’s greenhouse gas emissions, according to the EPA.

Commenting on the proposed rules, several participants in the Senior ECPA Fellows Program recently described them as a positive step for the United States and for other countries as well. Dan Kammen noted that the EPA plan allows states to apply different policies—such as retrofitting coal plants with gas, building new-design nuclear plants, scaling up renewable energy, and putting efficiency and conservation measures in place, or implementing a mix of different measures.

“It’s this flexibility that will most likely let these rules stand, which is key to making progress in the U.S. at present,” said Kammen, Professor of Energy, Public Policy, and Nuclear Engineering and Director of the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory at University of California at Berkeley.

For his part, Jigar Shah—CEO of Jigar Shah Consulting and founder of SunEdison—said the proposed rules represent “a thoughtful approach around transitioning the United States away from coal.” Shah also stressed that the United States is currently transitioning to more wind, solar, and other renewable energies. He pointed out that over half of all new electric capacity added since 2008 has been in renewable energy, adding that the acceleration of renewable energy and energy efficiency makes President Obama’s new goals “eminently doable.”

By helping to “catalyze advancement and innovation” in renewable energy technology and other areas, the proposed U.S. guidelines will benefit other countries in the region, according to Ana Barros, Professor of Engineering at Duke University. “This provides a great opportunity for collaboration and exchange among ECPA countries, which can spur advances in energy efficiency and potential diversification of the renewable energy portfolio across Central and South America,” she said.

The plan to reduce U.S. carbon emissions also stands to “re-energize” climate negotiations ahead of December’s United Nations Climate Change Conference in Lima, Peru, according to Frank Lowenstein, Deputy Director of the New England Forestry Foundation.

The Senior ECPA Fellow Program brings together experts from the public and private sectors to address sustainable energy and climate change and build capacity on these issues across the Americas.