EIA: Clean Power Plan could return CO2 emissions to 1980 levels

(Carla Gottgens/Bloomberg)
(Carla Gottgens/Bloomberg)

HOUSTON — New regulations on power plant carbon dioxide could send generator’s emissions to levels not seen since the early 1980s, according a government analysis.

The proposed rules, part of the Clean Power Plan offered in June by the Environmental Protection Agency, could leave carbon dioxide emissions at about 1,500 million metric tons per year by 2025 — roughly the same annual amounts seen in 1980, according to a model analysis by the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

The Clean Power Plan is intended to reduce emissions from power plants and its rules give states the option of pursuing several strategies to do so, according to the EIA. Those options include switching from coal generation to natural gas-fired plants, developing other lower-carbon technologies and increasing energy efficiency.

To develop its emissions-reduction projection, the EIA aggregated all of the areas affected by the rules and then calculated what would happen if power providers chose compliance strategy based on cost.

The EIA’s analysis only examined emissions and didn’t fully weigh other consequences of the rules, such as environmental benefits or power reliability. The Clean Power Plan has been criticized by opponents for a range of issues from putting power reliability in danger to not being effective enough at promoting renewable fuels.

In the EIA’s forecast, emissions fall sharply until about 2030 when demand for more electricity pushes them upward. The report also included a stricter policy case where Clean Power Plan requirements continue to decrease after 2030. In that case — highlighted as the policy extension in the below graph — emissions fall by 45 percent compared to 2005 levels.


graph of carbon dioxide emission from the electric power sector, as explained in the article text