Electric Power Research Institute modeling has concluded the least cost option for Pennsylvania to meet the EPA Clean Power Climate Rule by 2030 is to use more low-cost ($6 or less) natural gas for electric power generation and the mass balance approach to regulating greenhouse gas reductions.
But, to meet broader climate goals of reducing climate-changing emissions by 80 percent by 2050, a mix of energy efficiency, renewables and new no-carbon nuclear power plants and extending the life of existing nuclear plants and other steps will be required.
Anda Ray, EPRI Vice President for Environment and the Chief Sustainability Officer, made these comments in a presentation before members of the Public Utility Commission and the public on December 17 in Harrisburg.
Ray noted EPA’s Clean Power Climate rule has a long lead time for meeting its requirements-- 15 years-- noting the pace of change in technology in the transmission system and generation, the processes for regulating electric power and the market is occurring very rapidly. Think, she said, about how different things are now than they were in 2000.
She said the recently-signed Paris climate agreement will guide what nations will do in regulating greenhouse gas emissions from all sectors of the economy, but it is also just the beginning of the process.
Ray urged those involved in the issue to look not just at 2030-- the Clean Power Plan deadline-- but toward the broader climate issue where in 2050 even more reductions will be required to meet the goal of reducing emissions to achieve a less than 2 degree increase in global temperatures.
With respect to coal, she said EPRI’s models show coal all but disappearing in the mix of energy sources needed to meet the 2050 reductions. Asked about carbon capture technology, Ray said, in her opinion, it is more likely to be installed on natural gas-fired power plants than coal because of the costs involved.
Ray summarized her presentation in four take-away messages--
-- Climate is a global issue and policy will be set at a global scale;
-- Electrification of other sectors, like transportation, is a significant element in achieving the broader 80 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions needed to meet temperature goals in 2050;
-- Integrating energy efficiency, demand side management and renewables will be important in meeting a 2050 goal; and
-- Building new no-carbon nuclear plants and extending the life of existing plants will be critical to meeting the longer term goal.
Click Here for a copy of Ray’s PowerPoint presentation.
What DEP Has Said
DEP Secretary John Quigley has said many of the same things Ray said in her presentation in talking about meeting EPA’s Clean Power Climate Plan Rule for the electric generation sector and developing a broader update covering all sectors in Pennsylvania’s Climate Change Action Plan.
On December 8 in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Quigley separated the much narrower goal of meeting EPA’s Clean Power Plan limits and taking the next step on the Climate Action Plan.
“... (T)he Commonwealth is still in the early stages of developing its final implementation plan (for the Clean Power Rule) so it is not a component of the Climate Action Plan. However, many of the carbon strategies for electricity within this document (the Plan) should ultimately support the development of the state’s plan.”
Secretary Quigley was quoted as saying relying on the carbon benefits of burning natural gas instead of coal is short-sighted in meeting the broader climate change goal.
At a press conference in November, Quigley said Pennsylvania does not have that far to go to meet the narrower EPA Clean Power Plan, noting the final Clean Power rule requires Pennsylvania to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 1 million tons annually by 2022 (7 years from now) and another 15 million tons annually by 2030 (15 years from now).
Quigley said carbon dioxide emissions in Pennsylvania have already been reduced by 27 million tons annually in just 7 years, a 20 percent from 2007 to 2014, to a total of about 107 million tons annually.
The reductions came primarily as a result of switching from coal to natural gas to generate electricity and additional EPA controls on mercury emissions at coal-fired power plants.
The first milestone in the EPA Clean Power rule is 2022, Quigley said, which requires Pennsylvania to reduce CO2 emissions to 106 million tons, about 1 million tons below where the state is now.
By 2030, the state must take steps to reduce emissions to 91 million tons, only about 15 million tons more.
From 1997 to 2013 natural gas use to generate electricity increased from 3 percent to 38 percent, according to the Public Utility Commission. About 10,003 MW of generating capacity is now fueled by natural gas in Pennsylvania with another 11,609 MW of new generating capacity being proposed, although not all of the proposed capacity is typically built.
In July 2014, DEP acknowledged in a presentation before the Citizens Advisory Council that coal use in Pennsylvania could drop by 75 percent by 2030 anyway, without the EPA Clean Power Climate Plan, due to the switch to natural gas for electric power generation because of market conditions, if natural gas prices remain about the same.For more information on climate change activities in Pennsylvania, visit DEP’s Climate Change-EPA Clean Power Plan Rule and Climate Change Advisory Committee webpage.