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  • WEEKEND VIDEOS, July 21-21:

  • Supreme Court Nominee’s Climate Record
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  • How Solar Serves The Heartlands

    Monday, July 20, 2015


    Analysis of the Impacts of the Clean Power Plan

    May 2015 (U.S. Energy Information Administration)

    Summary of Results

    Power sector CO2 emissions declined by 363 million metric tons between 2005 and 2013, due to a decline in coal’s generation share and growing use of natural gas and renewables, but the CO2 emissions are projected to change only modestly from 2013 through 2040 in the 3 baseline cases used in this report. Relative to the AEO2015 Reference case, the projected emissions trajectory is somewhat lower in the High Oil and Gas Resource case baseline, which has cheaper natural gas, and somewhat higher in the High Economic Growth case, which has higher electricity use.

    The proposed Clean Power Plan would reduce projected power sector CO2 emissions (Figure 3, Table 3 and Table 4). Reductions in projected emissions in 2030 relative to baseline projections for that year range from 484 to 625 million metric tons. The projected power sector emissions level in 2030 ranges from 1,553 to 1,727 million metric tons across the cases, reflecting a reduction of between 29% and 36% relative to the 2005 emissions level of 2,416 million metric tons.

    Switching from coal-fired generation to natural gas-fired generation is the predominant compliance strategy as implementation begins, with renewables playing a growing role in the mid-2020s and beyond (Figures 4 and 5; Tables 3 and 4). Demand-side energy efficiency plays a moderate role in compliance, relative to the early role of natural gas and the eventual role of renewables. The economics of increased natural gas generation and expanded renewable electricity capacity vary regionally, the key determinants being: 1) the natural gas supply and combined cycle utilization rates by region; and 2) the potential for penetration of renewable generation in regions including states that have no (or low) renewable portfolio standards.

    With continued Clean Power Plan emissions reduction requirements through 2040 under the Policy Extension Case (CPPEXT), the shift to higher natural gas-fired generation is maintained through 2030- 35 (Figure 5 and Table 3).

    If new nuclear power generation were to be treated in the same manner as new renewable generation in compliance calculations, the Clean Power Plan would also result in increased nuclear generation (Figure 6 and Table 3).

    The Clean Power Plan has a significant effect on projected retirements and additions of electric generation capacity (Figures 7 and 8; Tables 3 and 4). Projected coal plant retirements over the 2014- 40 period, which are 40 GW in the AEO2015 Reference case (most before 2017), increase to 90 GW (nearly all by 2020) in the Base Policy case (CPP). Retirements of inefficient units fueled by natural gas or oil, generally involving primary steam cycles, are also projected to rise. Turning to additions, which are dominated by natural gas and renewables over the 2014-40 period in the AEO2015 Reference case, the Clean Power Plan significantly increases projected renewable capacity additions in all cases. Under favorable natural gas supply conditions, the Clean Power Plan also increases additions of generation capacity fueled by natural gas (CPPHOGR). Nuclear capacity is also added in a sensitivity case in which new nuclear generation receives the same treatment as new renewable generation in compliance calculations (CPPNUC).

    Coal production and minemouth steam coal prices are lower compared with the AEO2015 Reference case in the early years following Clean Power Plan implementation (Figures 9 and 10, and Tables 3 and 4). In the Base Policy case (CPP) projected U.S. coal production in 2020 and 2025 is 20% and 32% lower relative to the AEO2015 baseline level in those years, respectively. All major coal-producing regions (West, Interior, and Appalachia) experience negative production impacts in 2020. Expanded generation from renewables, rising natural gas prices, and static CPP targets in the post-2030 period in the CPP case allow existing coal-fired plants to operate at a higher utilization rate which rises from a low of 60% in 2024 to 71% in 2040. As a result, coal production edges higher but still remains 20% below the AEO2015 Reference case level in 2040. The Interior coal-producing region, which primarily includes the Illinois and Gulf-lignite Basins, and the West coal-producing region, which primarily includes the Powder River, Rocky Mountain, Arizona/New Mexico and Dakota-lignite Basins, account for most of the increase in production levels in the CPP case towards the end of the projection period. Average minemouth steam coal prices also decline after 2020 and are 8% and 10% lower in 2025 and 2030, respectively in the Base Policy Case compared with the AEO2015 Reference case and then remain at least 8% lower than the Reference case through 2040.

    The Clean Power Plan’s effect on natural gas production and prices is very sensitive to baseline supply conditions (Figure 11 and Figure 12; Tables 3 and 4). The Clean Power Plan increases natural gas use significantly relative to baseline at the start of Clean Power Plan implementation, but this effect fades over time as renewables and efficiency programs increasingly become the dominant compliance strategies. While there are significant differences in projected natural gas prices across baselines, with persistently lower prices in the High Oil and Gas Resource case, the Clean Power plan itself does not significantly move natural gas prices with the exception of an initial impact expected during the first 2-3 years after the start of implementation.

    Heat rates for coal-fired generators that remain in use, defined as the energy content of coal consumed (in Btu) per kWh of net electricity generated, improve modestly under the Clean Power Plan (Figure 13). In all cases, the average heat rate improvement across the fleet of coal-fired generators is less than 2%. The projected level of heat rate improvement is sensitive to assumptions about natural gas supply that influence natural gas prices, reflecting competition between available compliance options.

    Retail electricity prices and expenditures rise under the Clean Power Plan. Retail electricity prices increase most in the early 2020s, in response to initial compliance measures. Increased investment in new generating capacity as well as increased use of natural gas for generation lead to electricity prices that are 3% to 7% higher on average from 2020-25 in the Clean Power Plan cases, versus the respective baseline cases (Figure 14). While prices return to near-baseline levels by 2030 in many regions, prices remain at elevated levels in some parts of the country. In Florida and the Southeast, the Southern Plains, and the Southwest regions the projected electricity prices in 2030 are roughly 10% above baseline in the Base Policy case (CPP). Electricity expenditures also generally rise with Clean Power Plan implementation, but expenditure changes are smaller in percentage terms than price changes as the combination of energy-efficiency programs pursued for compliance purposes and higher electricity prices tends to reduce electricity consumption relative to baseline. By 2040, total electricity expenditures in the CPP case are slightly below those in the AEO2015 Reference case, as decreases in demand more than offset the price increases.

    Biomass generation accounts for only a small share of total generation with or without the Clean Power Plan. Implementation of the Clean Power Plan can either increase or decrease projected biomass generation depending on the emission rate applied to biomass generation in the compliance calculation. Using the 195 pounds/MMBtu emissions rate for biomass assumed in EPA’s Regulatory Impact Analysis, as in the CPPBIO195 case, EIA projects that biomass generation in 2020 and 2030 would be 33% and 71% below the respective AEO2015 baseline levels of 24 billion kWh (BkWh) and 41 BkWh for those years. In the Base Policy case (CPP), which uses the standard EIA treatment of biomass generation as a net zero emissions generation source, EIA projects that biomass generation in 2020 and 2030 would be 46% above and 5% below the respective AEO2015 baseline levels for those years.

    Economic activity indicators, including real gross domestic product (GDP), industrial shipments, and consumption, are reduced relative to baseline under the Clean Power Plan. Across cases that start from the AEO2015 Reference case, the reduction in cumulative GDP over 2015-40 ranges from 0.17%- 0.25%, with the high end reflecting a tighter policy beyond 2030. Implementing the Clean Power Plan under baselines that assume high economic growth or high oil and gas resources ameliorate both GDP and disposable income impacts relative to outcomes using the AEO2015 Reference case baseline…


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