The EPA could use four common energy efficiency policies to set a carbon pollution standard that would reduce emissions from the power plant sector to 26 percent below 2012 levels by 2030 with no net cost to the economy, according to a study by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy.
The ACEEE study, Change is in the Air: How States Can Harness Energy Efficiency to Strengthen the Economy and Reduce Pollution, evaluated a scenario in which states would adopt four energy-saving policies. The four policies are: implement an energy efficiency savings target, enact national model building codes, construct combined heat and power systems and adopt efficiency standards for products and equipment.
If every state adopted those four policies, the US would avoid 600 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions, save more than 925 million MWh of electricity and obviate the need for 494 power plants in 2030 (see graphic).
Last year, President Barack Obama called on the EPA to regulate GHGs from existing power plants. The Clean Air Act gives the EPA broad authority, including the ability to consider flexible compliance strategies to meet emissions standards, the ACEEE says.
The White House Office of Management and Budget is reviewing the standard, which would set a carbon dioxide emissions limit for existing power plants under the Clean Air Act.
The study argues the EPA should follow the lead of states that have used energy efficiency resources — not a new set of requirements — to determine what reductions the power industry can actually achieve.
The organization also argues the EPA should include efficiency’s potential to reduce pollution when setting the emissions standard and allow end-use efficiency to qualify as a compliance mechanism in the upcoming regulation. This will help states and the power sector take advantage of the lowest-cost approach to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the ACEEE says.
An ACEEE white paper published in February says US electricity sales have been on the decline since 2007 even as the economy has recovered. Evidence in the white paper suggests that savings from energy efficiency programs and policies such as appliance standards and building codes are having a broad national impact on consumption in the US.