Climate Change, Carbon Reduction and Mitigating Natural Gas Use in the Electricity Sector

The Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan offers states the opportunity to curb rising natural gas use in the United States and achieve steeper carbon-pollution reductions by investing more aggressively in renewable energy and energy efficiency.

Source: www.americanprogress.org

>” […] In the United States, electric utilities are the largest source of carbon pollution. Therefore, the reduction of power-sector emissions needs to be a central component of any meaningful climate mitigation strategy. In June, the Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, released a landmark proposal to establish the first-ever carbon-pollution standards for the nation’s power plants.

This proposal, the Clean Power Plan, establishes a “best system of emissions reduction” based on four building blocks that combine to make the nation’s electricity system more efficient and less reliant on carbon-heavy coal-burning power plants. […]

One of the Clean Power Plan’s central elements is increasing the use of lower-carbon natural gas combined cycle, or NGCC, units to generate some of the electricity now produced by higher-carbon coal-fired power plants. States can use this approach to achieve relatively quick carbon-pollution reductions starting in 2020 while ramping up the deployment of programs that promote renewable energy and energy efficiency.

The EPA modeled two compliance scenarios to understand the costs, benefits, and potential energy-related impacts of the Clean Power Plan. This modeling suggests that the electricity sector’s natural gas consumption will increase sharply at the beginning of the Clean Power Plan’s implementation period as states shift power generation from dirtier coal-fired plants to cleaner-burning NGCC plants. The EPA also predicts that states will build new NGCC plants to replace retiring coal plants and to help meet their carbon-reduction targets.

By 2030, however, the EPA’s models forecast that more renewable energy and energy-efficiency programs will come online as states continue to implement the Clean Power Plan. Electricity generation from renewable sources will displace some generation from NGCC and coal-fired power plants. Energy-efficiency programs, meanwhile, will reduce electricity demand, slowing generation and curbing carbon pollution from the power sector as a whole. […]

While natural gas burns cleaner than coal, it is still a fossil fuel that releases carbon pollution. In addition, methane, a potent greenhouse gas, can escape throughout the natural gas production and supply cycle. For these reasons, several recent studies by prominent researchers have questioned whether natural gas can form the core of an effective climate mitigation strategy. […]

By acting decisively to implement ambitious renewable energy and energy-efficiency programs, states can help ensure that the United States does not overcommit to natural gas and that it continues on a path toward decarbonization of the economy. […]”<

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