Study says state plans are key to cutting concentrations of atmospheric heat-trapping pollution.
State energy policies key to reaching EPA greenhouse gas targets
FRISCO — State energy policies could be crucial to achieving the deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions needed to prevent runaway global warming. Mandatory emissions caps and indirect steps like encouraging production of renewable energy can be equally effective, according to a new study led by the University of Colorado, Boulder.
State policies are important because the EPA’s Clean Power Plan gives states a key role in reaching overall national goals. The plan would require each state to cut CO2 pollution from power plants by 30 percent from their 2005 levels by 2030.
“In addition to suggesting that the EPA’s Clean Power Plan can work, our results have important implications for the U.N. Climate Summit,” said Professor Don Grant, chair of the CU-Boulder sociology department and lead author of the study. “They indicate that while the world’s nations have struggled to agree on how to reduce emissions, sub-national governments have been developing several effective mitigation measures. Leaders at the United Nations, therefore, would be wise to shift from a top-down strategy that focuses on forging international treaties to a more bottom-up approach that builds upon established policy successes.”
The study was published online this week in Nature Climate Change. The study was co-authored by Kelly Bergstrand of the University of Arizona and Katrina Running of Idaho State University, and was funded by the National Science Foundation.
Researchers had previously found it difficult to determine which state policies, if any, reduced power plants’ CO2 emissions because plant-specific data were largely unavailable, Grant said. That changed when the EPA began requiring plants to submit CO2 pollution information as part of its Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program.
Some states have policies that directly limit power plants’ carbon emissions and others have addressed carbon emissions indirectly by encouraging energy efficiency and renewable energy.
The study used 2005 and 2010 data to examine the impacts of strategies that are explicitly climate-focused such as carbon emission caps, greenhouse gas reduction goals, climate action plans (comprehensive strategies for reducing a state’s carbon emissions) and greenhouse gas registry/reporting system that require plants to register and record their emissions and emissions reductions.
Likewise, the researchers examined indirect policies with climate implications such as efficiency targets, renewable portfolio standards that require utilities to deliver a certain amount of electricity from renewable or alternative energy sources, public benefit funds that provide financial assistance for energy efficiency and renewable energy, and “electric decoupling” that eases the pressure on utilities to sell as much energy as possible by eliminating the relationship between revenues and sales volume.
The study found that emission caps, greenhouse gas targets, efficiency targets, public benefit funds and electric decoupling were the most effective policies for reducing power plants’ carbon emissions.