One Month into the Clean Power Plan

Approximately one month ago President Obama and the EPA announced the Clean Power Plan as the United State’s regulatory tool to address climate change. The plan’s primary focus is on carbon dioxide emissions from power plants with key goal to cut carbon dioxide emissions from the power industry to 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. In OWOE’s August 10th blog, we identified the 4 critical issues toward achievement of the Plan’s goals that will be battled in the coming months/years. While  legal, political, and economic issues are interesting and will provide most of the drama surrounding the Plan, the technical issues are the ones that OWOE feels are most challenging. Two studies issued subsequent to the Plan present some key issues:

  1. On August 17th, Scientific American published a study showing that bulk energy storage would actually increase electrical power plant emissions. Energy storage is seen as the “holy grail” for renewable energy that will allow excess generation produced when the wind is blowing and sun is shining to be stored for use at other times. However, the study showed that if significant storage were to be deployed today, the additional power demand to fill the storage would most likely be met by increasing coal-fired power production, which is the cheapest form of electricity. Of course, the key here is the word today. In the future when renewables are a much larger contributor to power generation and new technology is in place, the situation could very well be different.
  2. On August 17th, OilPrice.com published an article describing the challenges faced by Germany over its dramatic increase in green energy usage. Although Germany has increased its renewable energy generation by almost a factor of five in the last decade, it has failed to invest in building the necessary infrastructure to carry this energy, which has increased the risk of blackouts. Grid companies in Germany believe they must invest close to $24 billion for upgrading their network and modifying existing high voltage power lines.

These stories emphasize some of the technical issues that must be addressed to ensure success of the Plan.

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