Georgia’s Focus on Clean Power Plan Compliance
By Kevin Kelly, Policy Advisor at Southface
On August 3, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released the final Clean Power Plan (CPP). The CPP limits carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from existing fossil-fuel power plants. While the CPP is only one component of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, it stands out as an historic climate initiative.
Fossil-fuel power plants are the largest source of U.S. CO2 emissions. They cannot easily switch to producing low-carbon electricity. Achieving the goals of the CPP will require greater energy efficiency and the production of new low-emission and emission-free energy.
The final CPP was released after 14 months of review and revision that included more than 4.3 million public comments. For Georgia, significant changes resulted, including a new formula crediting the electricity from nuclear units under construction at Plant Vogtle. Georgia’s carbon reduction goal became less stringent than originally proposed.
There is still a challenge to meet Georgia’s goal. That challenge is an opportunity to build the clean energy economy that is well underway in Georgia. The CPP provides a compelling case for promoting energy efficiency and renewable energy in our state.
Southface welcomes these challenges. We are excited about the opportunity to accelerate the growth of Georgia’s clean energy industry and ensure equitable distribution of energy benefits and burdens.
For more than three decades, Southface worked with builders, energy code officials, local governments, utilities, housing agencies and clean energy companies to advance energy and water efficiency. We have seen tremendous growth in the number of businesses and homes that have been built to high-performance building standards like EarthCraft and Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED).
We have seen deep commitments to energy retrofits, such as the Atlanta Better Buildings Challenge. Through this effort, owners and managers of more than 100 million square feet of commercial office space in Atlanta have pledged to reduce energy and water use at least 20 percent by 2020.
We have witnessed a vast expansion of utility-scale and distributed solar generation in Georgia. At the end of 2016, the state will have 50 times as much solar capacity installed as at the end of 2012.
However, neither private sector nor utility energy efficiency initiatives in Georgia have come close to exhausting the potential for cost-effective savings. Each day, we see enormous potential for cutting energy waste in our economy. Similarly, Georgia has untapped renewable energy potential and boasts a growing solar industry ready to create jobs and strengthen local economies. There remains significant opportunity.
Realizing this opportunity will be good for Georgia. Clean energy is already having a positive impact on the state’s economy.
Southface’s annual Georgia Clean Energy Industry Census shows that the state has at least 678 clean energy firms in the energy efficiency, renewable energy, geothermal, energy storage, fuel cell, alternative fuel vehicles and smart grid sectors. These firms employ about 20,000 full-time personnel and generate at least $2.9 billion annually in revenues. Energy efficiency is the state’s largest clean energy sector and provides over 10,000 full-time jobs. Solar is another large sector and provides over 2,600 full time jobs. These two clean energy sectors in particular are poised to continue growing.
So, as Georgia’s approach to CPP compliance takes shape over the next year, Southface will continue to collaborate with other stakeholders to promote clean energy as the most logical, lowest cost compliance option and a boost for the state’s economy.
But as we do, we must remain focused on the goal of equity – an equal sharing of the benefits and burdens of energy production and consumption. The final CPP opens new opportunities to expand the clean energy dialogue by focusing on the issue of equity.
The final rule requires states to meaningfully engage with disadvantaged communities about CPP compliance options. The newly created CPP Clean Energy Incentive Program provides “extra credit” for energy efficiency programs for low-income residents, creating a tangible incentive for state and utilities to invest more in energy efficiency programs for residents that can benefit the most.
These are significant developments, and Southface will continue to focus our efforts on realizing these important outcomes.