Last week I wrote about the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) new proposed standard for carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from fossil fuel power plants. The long-awaited regulation would limit emissions to 1,000 pounds of CO2per megawatt-hour (MWh) of electricity produced, essentially guaranteeing that no new coal power plants will be built in the U.S. without carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies.

Almost 30 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions come from coal power plants. Image source: epa.gov

Almost 30 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions come from coal power plants. Image source: epa.gov

In an effort to minimize opposition to the proposed standard, the EPA emphasized the limited negative impact on industry, as utility companies are already choosing to invest in natural gas rather than coal plants for new capacity. This is due mostly to abundant new reserves of relatively cheap shale gas extracted through hydraulic fracturing.

So just how accurate are the EPA’s claims that the proposed regulation is in line with industry business-as-usual? Other projections of future coal plant construction support the overall claim that the industry was already moving away from investing in new coal power.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) projected there would be “virtually no new coal in [the] reference case [scenario] following several CCS demos.” The EIA reports that there are 9.3 gigawatts (GW) of new coal capacity currently planned by 2015, and none thereafter. Nearly all of this new capacity will be built within the next 12 months and will therefore be exempt from the proposed CO2 standards. Any plants scheduled to begin construction in more than a year will need to include CCS technologies in order to comply with the 1,000 pounds of CO2 per MWh limit of the proposed EPA regulation. Power plant emissions can be averaged over a 30-year period to meet the regulations, so it is also possible for power producers to build coal plants in the near-term provided they install CCS systems in the future.

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carbon emission, Climate Policy, coal, EPA, United States

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed the country’s first federal standard regulating carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from power plants last week. The introduction of a carbon standard has been long-awaited by the environmental community, and many groups are applauding the proposed rule as an important first step by the U.S. government to tackle climate change.

EPA promotes the clean air and health benefits of carbon regulation on the agency homepage. Image source: epa.gov

EPA promotes the clean air and health benefits of carbon regulation on the agency homepage. Image source: epa.gov

The carbon emission standard – which limits emissions to 1,000 pounds of CO2 per megawatt-hour (MWh) of electricity produced – will apply to future fossil fuel-fired power plants with an installed capacity greater than 25 megawatts (MW); plants that are currently operating or that will begin construction in the next 12 months are exempt.

The average natural gas plant in the U.S. emits between 800 and 850 pounds of CO2 per MWh, safely within the proposed standard. The average coal plant, on the other hand, emits 1,768 pounds of CO2 per MWh, which would exceed the standard. However, these existing plants will not be affected by the regulation, and EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson further emphasized that there are currently “no plans” to place standards on CO2 emissions from existing plants, including future modifications that could increase their emissions. However it is likely that the EPA will regulate carbon emissions from existing power plants at some point down the road, and the proposed standard for new sources is a vital step to ensuring that this will occur.

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carbon emission, Climate Change, coal, emissions limits, EPA, natural gas, United States

By Haibing Ma

Guangdong is releasing a series of policies to ensure a green future. ©nfdaily.cn

According to media reports, Guangdong province has taken the lead in becoming the pioneer of low-carbon practices in China. Guangdong is one of 13 pilot regions—including five provinces and eight municipalities—that the Chinese government has selected to explore low-carbon development. So far, it is the only pilot region that has issued a comprehensive plan for this development and had it approved by the central government.

In January 2012, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) reviewed and then “approved with positive comments” Guandong’s “Implementation Plan for Low-Carbon Pilot Programs.” Although this plan has not been made public, it reportedly lays out eight “key actions”:

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12th Five-Year Plan, cap and trade, carbon emission, carbon intensity, China, emission trading, energy intensity, green development, Guangdong province, low-carbon, MRV, NDRC, pilot program, statistics

By Haibing Ma

Provinces and municipalities had been competing to establish emissions trading systems (Source: nddaily).

In an article co-authored with my colleague Alexander Ochs in September 2010, we discussed China’s interest in setting up a scheme for carbon-emissions trading in the next five years. Now, the deal is set: The National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) recently issued an official notice to initiate pilot carbon-trading programs in seven regions. By embracing market-based approaches to mitigating climate change, China is seeking to facilitate a smooth and efficient transition to sustainable development.

The seven pilot regions are the cities of Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai, Chongqing, and Shenzhen, as well as Guangdong and Hubei provinces. It’s no surprise that some of these regions overlap with China’s “Five Provinces, Eight Cities” pilot program on low-carbon development, initiated in 2010. Although details of the emissions trading programs have not been elaborated, designation of the pilot regions indicates that the central government has finally made up its mind to issue clearer guidance on exploring carbon markets, in order to better coordinate existing municipal and provincial interest in emissions trading.

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12th Five-Year Plan, absolute cap, carbon emission, carbon intensity, carbon tax, China, emission trading, energy intensity, environmental equities, Grand Western Development Program, NDRC, pilot, preferential policies, Special Economic Zone, voluntary