APPA responds to Clean Power Plan

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has unveiled its much-awaited proposed rule to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by existing fossil-fueled power plants.

The American Public Power Association (Public Power) continues to be committed to reducing CO2 emissions. We appreciate that 120 days have been allowed for comments on the rule and will constructively engage with the EPA, in a fact-based manner, to ensure that regulations do not place undue burden on consumers.

Public Power believes climate change should be addressed but Congress, not EPA, should determine the best framework outside of the Clean Air Act to do so while ensuring affordable, reliable electricity from all fuel sources, including coal and natural gas. The Clean Air Act is ill-suited to regulate CO2 emissions. If the EPA moves forward with regulations that call for too much change too fast, we will likely see unnecessary coal-plant retirements without long-term plans for viable, cost-effective alternatives; higher electricity prices; and potential shortage of electricity supply.

“Public power utilities are good environmental stewards. But we need a middle path, one that respects the needs of energy producers and the pocketbooks of energy customers,” said Sue Kelly, president and CEO of the American Public Power Association. Kelly cited the example of Germany’s “all-in” approach to renewables, which has doubled the average residential electric bill since 2000, with a further 40 percent increase projected by 2020.

The electric utility industry in the U.S. has reduced its carbon dioxide emissions by more than 12 percent between 2007 and 2012, without federal rules and regulations. Over the last decade, public power utilities have added new generation resources with lower or no emissions — wind, solar, hydro, biomass, nuclear, and natural gas. These utilities also have been aggressive in supporting efficiency in energy use by customers and encouraging demand response and load management. As utilities continue down this path, CO2 emissions are expected to further decline over time.

However, public power utilities using coal-fired generation — especially units that are now being upgraded and retrofitted to deal with current EPA regulations — need to be able to continue to use those facilities for their remaining useful life. “Regulations have to be considered comprehensively. Otherwise we run the risk of high electricity rates for customers, undue revenue losses for utilities that must be paid for by local communities and other adverse economic impacts, causing an unintended backlash that would help no one,” said Kelly.

EPA’s proposal to allow states to regulate carbon dioxide emissions will face barriers in those regions with restructured electricity markets. According to Joe Nipper, the American Public Power Association’s senior vice president, regulatory affairs and communications, “There are a host of different market and regulatory regimes throughout the country. At the wholesale level, many states are located within the boundaries of regional transmission organizations (RTOs). And many of these states regulate utilities that no longer own generation. States have little regulatory authority over either the rules of these electricity markets or the actions of the for-profit companies that own generating units.”

Nipper noted that the greatest barriers to development of new and lower CO2 resources will be for states located within those RTOs that rely on mandatory capacity markets to incent new investment. Those states’ ability and authority to achieve the optimal balance of reduced use of high-emission resources vs. increased use of low-emission resources and energy efficiency is limited.

Public Power is also concerned that utilities with only one baseload generation unit (coal or natural gas) will find it far more difficult to meet steeper CO2 reduction targets. “We will review the EPA proposed rule language to ensure suitable accommodation for the unique needs of single generation units,” said Nipper.

The American Public Power Association (Public Power) represents not-for-profit, community-owned electric utilities that power homes, businesses and streets in nearly 2,000 towns and cities, serving 47 million Americans. With no divided loyalties, these utilities are focused on a single mission — providing reliable electricity at a reasonable price, while protecting the environment.

These public power utilities generate, or buy, electricity from diverse sources.  More at www.PublicPower.org.

EPA releases Clean Power Plan to cut emissions from power plants

WASHINGTON – At the direction of President Obama and after an unprecedented outreach effort, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is today releasing the Clean Power Plan proposal, which for the first time cuts carbon pollution from existing power plants, the single largest source of carbon pollution in the United States.Today’s proposal will protect public health, move the United States toward a cleaner environment and fight climate change while supplying Americans with reliable and affordable power.

“Climate change, fueled by carbon pollution, supercharges risks to our health, our economy, and our way of life. EPA is delivering on a vital piece of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan by proposing a Clean Power Plan that will cut harmful carbon pollution from our largest source–power plants,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. “By leveraging cleaner energy sources and cutting energy waste, this plan will clean the air we breathe while helping slow climate change so we can leave a safe and healthy future for our kids. We don’t have to choose between a healthy economy and a healthy environment–our action will sharpen America’s competitive edge, spur innovation, and create jobs.”

Power plants account for roughly one-third of all domestic greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. While there are limits in place for the level of arsenic, mercury, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and particle pollution that power plants can emit, there are currently no national limits on carbon pollution levels.

With the Clean Power Plan, EPA is proposing guidelines that build on trends already underway in states and the power sector to cut carbon pollution from existing power plants, making them more efficient and less polluting. This proposal follows through on the common-sense steps laid out in President Obama’s Climate Action Plan and the June 2013 Presidential Memorandum.

By 2030, the steady and responsible steps EPA is taking will:

  • Cut carbon emission from the power sector by 30 percent nationwide below 2005 levels, which is equal to the emissions from powering more than half the homes in the United States for one year;
  • Cut particle pollution, nitrogen oxides, and sulfur dioxide by more than 25 percent as a co-benefit;
  • Avoid up to 6,600 premature deaths, up to 150,000 asthma attacks in children, and up to 490,000 missed work or school days—providing up to $93 billion in climate and public health benefits; and
  • Shrink electricity bills roughly 8 percent by increasing energy efficiency and reducing demand in the electricity system.

The Clean Power Plan will be implemented through a state-federal partnership under which states identify a path forward using either current or new electricity production and pollution control policies to meet the goals of the proposed program. The proposal provides guidelines for states to develop plans to meet state-specific goals to reduce carbon pollution and gives them the flexibility to design a program that makes the most sense for their unique situation. States can choose the right mix of generation using diverse fuels, energy efficiency and demand-side management to meet the goals and their own needs. It allows them to work alone to develop individual plans or to work together with other states to develop multi-state plans.

Also included in today’s proposal is a flexible timeline for states to follow for submitting plans to the agency—with plans due in June 2016, with the option to use a two-step process for submitting final plans if more time is needed. States that have already invested in energy efficiency programs will be able to build on these programs during the compliance period to help make progress toward meeting their goal.

Since last summer, EPA has directly engaged with state, tribal, and local governments, industry and labor leaders, non-profits, and others. The data, information and feedback provided during this effort helped guide the development of the proposal and further confirmed that states have been leading the way for years in saving families and businesses money through improving efficiency, while cleaning up pollution from power plants. To date, 47 states have utilities that run demand-side energy efficiency programs, 38 have renewable portfolio standards or goals, and 10 have market-based greenhouse gas emissions programs. Together, the agency believes that these programs represent a proven, common-sense approach to cutting carbon pollution—one in which electricity is generated and used as efficiently as possible and which promotes a greater reliance on lower-carbon power sources.

Today’s announcement marks the beginning of the second phase of the agency’s outreach efforts. EPA will accept comment on the proposal for 120 days after publication in the Federal Register and will hold four public hearings on the proposed Clean Power Plan during the week of July 28 in the following cities: Denver, Atlanta, Washington, DC and Pittsburgh. Based on this input, EPA will finalize standards next June following the schedule laid out in the June 2013 Presidential Memorandum.

In 2009, EPA determined that greenhouse gas pollution threatens Americans’ health and welfare by leading to long lasting changes in our climate that can have a range of negative effects on human health and the environment. Taking steady, responsible steps to cut carbon pollution from existing power plants will protect children’s health and will move our nation toward a cleaner, more stable environment for future generations, while supplying the reliable, affordable power needed for economic growth.

Fact sheets and details about the proposed rule available at:
http://www.epa.gov/cleanpowerplan

More information on President Obama’s Climate Action Plan: http://www.whitehouse.gov/climate-change

Video on today’s announcement from Administrator Gina McCarthy: http://www.epa.gov/

IAMU teams up with Iowa Economic Development Authority on DOE rooftop solar initiative

The Iowa Association of Municipal Utilities (IAMU) and the Iowa Economic Development Authority are partnering on a Department of Energy initiative to spur solar power deployment across the nation. Continue reading

Include air conditioner maintenance in your spring cleaning

Air ConditionerSpring is just around the corner (officially beginning March 20), meaning summer is only a few months away! Now is a good time to start thinking about routine maintenance for your air conditioner system. Most central air conditioners have a life span of about 15 years, and replacement can be very expensive. Regular maintenance keeps your air conditioner running as efficiently and effectively as possible, thereby extending the unit’s life and ultimately saving you money.

Filters:

According to the Department of Energy’s Energy Savers website, clogged and dirty filters can block normal air flow and significantly reduce an air conditioner system’s efficiency. “With normal airflow obstructed, air that bypasses the filter may carry dirt directly into the evaporator coil and impair the coil’s heat-absorbing capacity. Keeping the filter clean can lower your air conditioner’s energy consumption by 5% to 15%.”

It is recommended to clean or replace your system’s filter or filters every month or two during the cooling season. During the summer season or at times during constant use, more frequent attention may be required.

Coils:

Over the months and years of service, an air conditioner’s evaporator coil and condenser coil will collect dirt or dust, regardless of the cleanliness of the filters. Dirt and dust reduce airflow and insulate the coil, reducing its ability to absorb heat. While a clean filter will prevent the coil from soiling quickly, it is still a good idea to check the coil annually and clean it as necessary.

Remember to check your outdoor condenser coils as well, which can become dirty easily. Be proactive by minimizing dirt, debris and foilage near the condenser unit and clean the area regularly to allow adequate airflow. Energy Savers recommends trimming foliage back at least 2 feet from the unit.

Coil Fins:

Various types of fin combs. Courtesy Home-Cost.com 2007

Various types of fin combs. Courtesy Home-Cost.com 2007

Air conditioner evaporator and condenser coils have aluminum fins that are easily bent and can block airflow through the coil. Tools called “fin combs” are available that will comb the fins back into nearly original condition. Big box stores such as Walmart and Home Depot sell fin combs for under $20, some as low as $8. Online retailer Amazon offers a wider range of models and kits.

Other:

In addition to cleaning and maintaining the filters, coils and fins, there are several other  tasks and tips to follow to extend the life and efficiency of your air conditioning system:

  • Routinely check the unit’s drain channels for clogs.
  • Plant shrubs or small trees between the sun and air conditioner unit to help keep it cool, but be sure to keep them trimmed back from the unit.
  • Consider turning on the kitchen exhaust vent to remove hot air while cooking, but use sparingly.
  • Install a programmable thermostat to save money and create less work for the unit.
  • Clean the outdoor unit regularly. Be sure to turn off the power before cleaning, and use a broom and garden hose to wash out leaves and dirt. Refer to your owner’s manual for instructions.
  • Keep furniture and other obstacles away from the vents indoors to create better circulation.
  • Use blinds and heavy drapes to block out the sun’s heat and reduce your system’s workload.
  • Check ducts for loose seams and gaps to prevent loss of cool air.
  • When the seasons change, inspect the seal between a window air conditioner unit and the window frame to ensure it makes contact with the unit’s metal case. Moisture can damage the seal, allowing air to escape from your house.
  • During times of non-use, cover your window air conditioner or remove and store it to protect it from weather and debris.
  • Hire a professional technician for more than routine maintenance. A professional can often spot potential problems before they become serious, and annual tuneups and minor repairs could add years of life to your unit.

DOE team issues final recommendations for changes to WAPA operations

by Robert Varela, Public Power Daily; American Public Power Association

An Energy Department task force on strategic changes to the Western Area Power Administration issued a set of 10 final recommendations after deciding not to pursue three other preliminary recommendations. The final recommendations by the DOE Joint Outreach Team (JOT) did not address some of the more controversial proposals in Energy Secretary Steven Chu’s March 16, 2012, memo on changes to the federal power marketing administrations, such as implementation of an energy imbalance market in the West.

The 10 final recommendations call for Western to:

  • develop a consistent methodology for determining the regulation reserve capacity needed by each Western balancing authority;
  • consolidate its four open access same-time information system (OASIS) sites within the Western Interconnection into a single OASIS site;
  • revise its large generator interconnection procedures (LGIP) to conform to changes recommended by WestConnect’s LGIP Work Group;
  • evaluate the potential to standardize transmission and ancillary service rate methodologies;
  • initiate processes in Western’s Desert Southwest, Rocky Mountain, and Colorado River Storage Project (CRSP) service areas to identify opportunities for increased integration of transmission systems within each region;
  • continue to work with regional reliability organizations to implement intra-hour scheduling, including 15-minute scheduling;
  • participate in regional and sub-regional efforts to find ways to integrate variable resources cost-effectively;
  • evaluate the transmission and ancillary services rates charged by each Western-owned transmission project and determine the feasibility of developing new transmission products;
  • evaluate its integrated resource planning program; and
  • engage customers and stakeholders to evaluate efforts within the WECC footprint to move from a contract-path to a flow-based approach. “As part of Western’s analysis, it should ensure that outcomes are cost-effective, benefits are clearly identifiable, and costs are neutral, or that any cost-shift is minimized,” the team said.

The draft recommendation to perform a Western-wide infrastructure investment study should be dropped because it would duplicate activities under way within Western’s Asset Management Program as well as transmission planning activities that WAPA regularly engages in either internally or externally with its customers and stakeholders, the report on the final recommendations said.

A draft recommendation to hire a “Renewable Energy Liaison” should not move forward “due to concerns regarding funding for the position and possible duplication of efforts with work being performed elsewhere within Western and DOE,” the team said. A draft recommendation to look at transferring the Electric Power Training Center to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory has been superseded by a re-evaluation of an earlier decision to close the training center, the team said.

In response to input received during the stakeholder process, the JOT said it developed a set of principles used to guide the development of the recommendations; those principles are:

  • Consider the unique attributes of Western’s regions;
  • Coordinate with federal generating agencies;
  • Ensure that the beneficiary or user of the system pays;
  • Build on the existing efforts already underway within Western; and
  • Ensure that Western stays within the limits of its authority.

The team said it also recognized the need to acknowledge the potential impacts associated with implementing any of the proposed recommendations, “e.g., the potential for cost shifts, the need for Western’s customers, tribes, industry peers, and other stakeholders to be a part of the evaluation process.”