US Clean Power Plan Or Why We Have to Look South
August 19, 2015
On August 3rd, President Obama and the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released the final version of the Clean Power Plan (CPP) aimed at reducing carbon emissions by 32 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030. After months of consultation, this Plan takes bold steps in encouraging U.S. states to take serious steps in transitioning their energy mix to include a greater portion of renewables. Coal finally becomes persona non grata south of the border.
The goal is obviously to reduce emissions but also to avoid thousands of premature deaths due to air pollution. This is very similar to the decision that was taken in Ontario to phase out coal. This is very similar to what the new government in Alberta is looking at. So, why is this different?
The CPP is a game changer for the electricity sector in North America for three main reasons: First, it rewards states that are early adopters of incentives to reduce their emissions (cap-and-trade in California and RGGI in the Northeast). Second, it gives the states the flexibility they need to reach their target by identifying a variety of solutions that can be implemented. With 7 to 47 per cent reductions required from the states, that flexibility will be key. Third, by allowing clean electricity imports from Canada, this plan thinks and acts globally.
Reducing emissions is a significant challenge for all the economies of the planet; a number of countries, including US states and Canadian provinces can support each other in maximizing their collective efforts by ensuring coordinated efforts are adopted. The CPP recognizes that regional economies are connected and co-dependent on each other. Electricity is no exception.
The Plan will also encourage new renewable energy projects, including wind, where it is most appropriate and cost effective. Bundled with our abundant hydroelectricity, wind and solar, for example, become a perfect commodity to export to neighboring US states in order to help them in reducing emissions at the lowest cost possible. It is a win-win on both sides of the border. Imagine the possibilities for provinces like Quebec and Ontario or even the Maritimes as a whole.
There is still a long road ahead and a number of bumps along the way. Republican and coal-dependent states, among others will likely oppose, but the train has left the station. The UN Climate Summit in Paris later this year might help in encouraging more countries and regional governments to get on board. It is once again time for Canada and the provinces to lead by example and do more. Now that the US is doing it, there is no reason for us not to join the efforts.
Canadian wind is ready to play a big role, both here in Canada but also in the US. That’s the kind of signal our industry needs to bring even more investment and create 21st century jobs, right here, in our communities.
Vice-President of Policy and Communications at the Canadian Wind Energy Association