Major US Corps Hail the Clean Power Plan while Fossil Fuel Interests Plot its Defeat
August 5, 2015
Michael Walsh / Yahoo News & The Energy & Policy Institute
Hundreds of companies and investors have sent a letter to 29 US governors to proclaim their support for the Obama Administration's Clean Power Plan to slash carbon emissions in the electricity sector. Meanwhile, fossil fuel and utility interests (abetted by the Koch Brothers' political network and front groups) continue to finance attacks on pro-clean energy policies in an effort to delay the growth of their competition in the marketplace.
365 Companies, Investors
Throw Weight behind EPA's Clean Power Plan
Michael Walsh / Yahoo News
(July 31, 2015) -- Hundreds of companies and investors sent a letter to 29 governors in the US on Friday to show their support for the Clean Power Plan to slash carbon emissions in the electricity sector.
The Environmental Protection Agency's plan establishes pollution standards for existing power plants, for the first time limiting the amount of carbon dioxide they can pump into the air.
General Mills, Nestle, Staples, Adidas and Mars were among the 365 businesses and investors -- which ranged from small companies to industry giants -- to sign the letter organized by Ceres, a Boston-based sustainability nonprofit.
"Our support is firmly grounded in economic reality. Clean-energy solutions are cost effective and innovative ways to drive investment and reduce greenhouse gas emissions," the letter reads in part.
Mindy Lubber, the president of Ceres and a founding board member of the organization, said the businesses signed the letter to dispel the myth that any sort of regulation would be bad for the economy.
"It's not the case. They don't see it that way. They were quite interested in the EPA rules, and for good reason. They are about making a better economy," she said in an interview with Yahoo News.
The EPA developed these standards under the Clean Air Act of 1973, which requires the agency to regulate the emission of pollutants. It was passed to protect human health and the environment from air pollution.
The Union of Concerned Scientists said power plants account for nearly 40 percent of the nation's CO2 emissions.
Lubber said climate change is already adversely affecting not only public health but also the economy. Billions of dollars have been lost in the real estate and insurance sectors alone, she said.
"We're seeing agriculture companies all but shut down a quarter of their farms because of climate-related changes," Lubber added.
She pointed to the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act as examples of reasonable legislation to set a level playing field for businesses and protect them from environmental harm.
Ceres described the letter as "an unprecedented show of business support for tackling climate change."
The EPA first proposed the Clean Power Plan, a central component to President Obama's climate change strategy, on June 2, 2014.
"Right now there are no national limits to the amount of carbon pollution that existing plants can pump into the air we breathe, none," Obama said just days earlier, on May 31, 2014. "We limit the amount of toxic chemicals like mercury, sulfur and arsenic that power plants put in our air and water, but they can dump unlimited amounts of carbon pollution into the air. It's not smart, it's not safe and it doesn't make sense."
The EPA estimates that the plan would reduce emissions from the electricity sector to 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030.
It sets state-by-state targets for reducing carbon emissions with flexible outlines for how they could be achieved, such as investment in renewable energy. But states will ultimately be responsible for drafting their plans for reaching the targets laid out by the EPA.
The Energy Information Administration, a nonpartisan branch of the US government, released an economic analysis of the Clean Power Plan offering a range of approaches for state compliance.
It found that wind energy development makes for perhaps the most cost-effective option for reducing carbon emissions and reaching those targets for nearly all of the regions.
The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), the industry's trade association, says wind played a dominant role in the analysis because the price of installing windmills has been declining steadily and windmills are essentially pollution-free.
"In their base case for what would be considered their best guess, they found that wind was responsible for almost 50 percent of the most economic compliance with the Clean Power Plan," Tom Vinson, vice president of federal regulatory affairs at the AWEA, said in an interview with Yahoo News. "One of the reason wind does so well in these economic analyses is that it is so affordable now, with costs coming down nearly 60 percent over the last five years and the ability to lock in a price today for the next 20 years or longer."
The Solar Energy Industries Association, a trade group for the solar industry, similarly says solar can help states transition off of fossil-fuel-dominant energy portfolios.
The plan has come under fire by the oil and gas industries and some energy-producing states.
Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has called for open defiance of the plan, which he called Obama's "attack on the middle class."
"Think twice before submitting a state plan -- which could lock you in to federal enforcement and expose you to lawsuits -- when the administration is standing on shaky legal ground and when, without your support, it won't be able to demonstrate the capacity to carry out such political extremism," he wrote in an op-ed for the Lexington Herald-Leader.
McConnell said the regulations would shrink the economy of his home state by close to $2 billion and destroy countless jobs.
Many expect the start date to be delayed by two years, from 2020 to 2022, in the final plan to give reluctant states more time to comply.
Attacks on Renewable Energy Policies in 2015
Energy & Policy Institute
(August 2015) -- Fossil fuel and utility interests, concerned about the rise of cheap clean energy, continue to finance attacks on pro-clean energy policies in an effort to delay the growth of their competition in the marketplace. These companies, along with the Koch Brothers' political network and front groups, want to continue selling as much coal, oil, and gas as possible -- and, in their effort to roll back clean energy policies, are spreading misinformation about clean energy and the energy market.
A main component in the strategy to stop the growth of renewable energy is to fund front groups, who then attack clean energy policies across the United States. While corporate interests also lobby politicians and regulators, these front groups serve a fundamental role in these assaults by adding a supposed independent, anti-clean energy voice to energy policy debates.
This report highlights the front groups and utility companies involved in attacking net metering and renewable energy standards, as well as the states where debates played out.
Utilities and fossil fuel companies are alarmed at what the clean energy boom will do to their market share as the economics of clean energy see continued improvement year after year. An average family that installed solar panels on its home ten years ago would have spent approximately $86,000, compared to a similar system that now costs less than $26,000. Prices are expected to plummet an additional 40% by 2017 according to Deutsche Bank, and Bloomberg New Energy Finance predicts $3.7 trillion in solar investment between now and 2040.
The price of wind power also continues its downward trajectory, with the price of wind power down by more than 50% since 2009. Simply put, the economics of cleantech are having an impact on the electricity market. In April 2015, wind and solar power accounted for 100% of new electric generating capacity in the US and 84% of new capacity from January through April.
The dramatic drop in the price of solar is, in part, a result of smart state and federal government policies to make renewable energy affordable for all Americans.
Why Utilities Want to Eliminate Net Metering
Net metering, which currently exists in 44 states, allows homeowners to be credited at the retail rate for excess power generated and sent back into the grid.
In recent years, more and more customers have installed distributed systems and enrolled in net metering programs as solar energy installations became more affordable for families across the country, and utility companies began to notice.
With greater numbers of customers generating and using their own clean energy, utility corporations saw decreased revenues. A recent report from the business consulting firm, Accenture, found distributed energy and energy efficiency could "drive down utilities' revenues by up to $48 billion a year in the United States . . ."
As a result of this competitive market threat, the utility industry, through its trade association, the Edison Electric Institute, launched a calculated, multi-year campaign to weaken distributed solar energy policies by targeting state legislatures and regulators.
Utility executives, meeting at the Edison Electric Institute's 2012 annual board meeting, initiated a plan that would repeal or weaken net metering laws, according to documents provided by Energy & Policy Institute to the Washington Post.
While the opportunity exists to create a new 21st century utility business model that takes into account customers' demands for clean, renewable, and distributed energy (as some innovative utilities are working on), EEI and many utilities have instead worked to spread misinformation about the impact of solar on the grid, claiming that rooftop solar passes costs onto other ratepayers.
However, independent studies commissioned by regulators in Mississippi, Nevada, and Maine, and the state consumer advocate in Vermont show that distributed solar produces benefits for all ratepayers by preventing the need for utility companies to build large expensive power plants and transmission infrastructure to bring the electricity to consumers.
Despite these benefits, utilities and front groups connected to utility interests have worked this year alone to weaken rooftop solar policies in at least 16 states.
Renewable Energy Standards Also
Targeted By Fossil Fuel Interests
Renewable energy standards (RES) are another major policy under attack by fossil fuel interests and front groups. In 2012, fossil fuel companies and predominately coal-burning utilities met behind closed doors with supposed "free-market" organizations at the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) to create a model bill to repeal RES laws.
The standards, which currently exist in 29 states and the District of Columbia, require utilities to generate a certain percentage of electricity from renewable power sources by a certain year, meaning that electricity from coal and natural gas plants would be passed over for solar or wind farms.
These laws were passed either through ballot initiatives or by state legislatures, and have helped diversify states' electricity portfolios, protect consumers from volatile fossil fuel prices, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the electricity sector. In addition, renewable energy standards have sparked billions of dollars of investment in renewable energy technologies and created tens of thousands of jobs.
Two pro-clean energy policies, net metering and renewable energy standards, have helped make the country's electricity sector less carbon-intensive and challenged the century-old electric utility business model.
As a result, the fossil fuel and utility industries have launched efforts to protect vested financial interests by repealing and weakening these laws through state legislatures and regulatory agencies.
The Energy & Policy Institute has tracked the industry's attacks on net metering and renewable energy standards over the past three years. This report exposes efforts by fossil fuel-backed organizations and utility interests to unleash yet another round of attacks to stall the growth of clean energy in the United States.
Download the report here or read on the web below
Table of Contents
Chart: Special Interest Funding Behind Net Metering Attacks
Front Groups Attacking Clean Energy Policies
60 Plus Association
Acadian Consulting Group
American Legislative Exchange Council
Americans for Prosperity
Americans for Tax Reform
Arizona Free Enterprise Club
Beacon Hill Institute
Center for the American Experiment
Citizens' Alliance for Responsible Energy
Consumer Energy Alliance
Energy & Environment Legal Institute
Harvard Electricity Policy Group
Indiana Energy Association
Institute for Energy Research
John Locke Foundation
National Black Chamber of Commerce
Partnership for Affordable Clean Energy
State Policy Network
Strata & Utah State University's Institute of Political Economy
Taxpayer Protection Alliance
Texas Public Policy Foundation
Attacks on Clean Energy Policies State-by-State
Go to the original story to click on active links
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