By Elizabeth Beardsley, Senior Policy Counsel, U.S. Green Building Council
The U.S. government’s biggest single policy move toward mitigating climate change is the Clean Power Plan from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This rule, issued in August 2015, regulates on a statewide basis the carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from fossil fuel power plants.
In brief, it requires states to establish plans to meet target CO2 reductions set by the EPA. States are not limited to smokestack controls, but can use measures such as end-user energy efficiency to reduce power plants’ output, and therefore, their emissions. The rule is predicted to cut hundreds of millions of tons of carbon pollution, as well as other pollutants, and to have significant co-benefits, such as avoiding 2,700 to 6,600 premature deaths and 140,000 to 150,000 asthma attacks in children each year.
USGBC applauds the Clean Power Plan as a needed step for the country in moving to a more efficient, clean-energy economy. Since issuance of the final rule last summer, our efforts have turned to working with partner organizations to support states and the EPA in its implementation. For example, we offered written comments to the EPA, both as testimony at a hearing late last year and in January. We advocated, through these comments and in concert with green affordable housing partners for the EPA, to further develop the proposed Clean Energy Incentive Program to emphasize the opportunity to support energy efficiency in affordable housing. In addition, our comments on the model Federal Plan are intended to ensure that all appropriate means of end-user efficiency—including third-party delivered efficiency such as performance contracting or above-code building certification—can be incentivized and valued.
Amid the progress being made in many states, the Supreme Court issued a disappointing decision last month to grant a stay of the rule, temporarily suspending it from going into effect while legal challenges run their course. Regardless of this temporary setback, however, we see the nation already moving ahead on this transition, led by forward-thinking businesses, states, cities and organizations to mobilize market forces to scale up energy efficiency and renewable energy. Our efforts will continue to focus on helping states advance beneficial efficiency and renewable energy policies and to plan for the rule’s future implementation.
Today, we are pleased to join a broad coalition of business, efficiency, environmental and labor organizations, with formal letters to 34 governors across the nation. Through these letters, influential voices from the business sector are urging governors to examine energy efficiency as a key tool for low-cost compliance in Clean Power Plan implementation. The letters are accompanied by a state fact sheet showing how common energy-efficiency policies can help each state’s Clean Power Plan compliance goals, all while saving customers money and growing their economy.