Friday, February 26, 2016

Even Without EPA’s Clean Power Plan, ‘the Future Is Bright for Wind and Solar’ - by Joe Romm

Wind farm and solar panels (Credit: Shutterstock) Click to Enlarge.
The future for U.S. renewables is very bright with or without the EPA’s carbon pollution standards for existing power plants, a new analysis finds.

Last month, I reported on a study that found the future for U.S. renewable energy is very bright because of the combination of the EPA’s Clean Power Plan (CPP) and the budget deal extending key solar and wind tax credits (the ITC and PTC).  That study by the Rhodium Group found that the boost to renewables from those two policies together is large enough to wipe out the natural gas renaissance that had been recently brought on by cheap shale gas.

Absent the budget deal, compliance with EPA’s Clean Power Plan would have largely been met by natural gas generation replacing coal (chart on left).  But thanks to the extension of renewable energy tax credits, gas will play a far more limited role, and renewables will replace coal (chart on right).

But now the Supreme Court has issued a “stay” on the CPP, delaying it for the foreseeable future. So Rhodium examined what happens to renewables in the no-CPP case.  Let me note it is still very possible if not likely that the CPP will ultimately be enacted, especially given the recent passing of conservative Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia, historically a reliable anti-environmental vote.

In fact, it’s not clear the CPP is even needed to achieve the coal plant retirements required for the U.S. to achieve its part of the Paris climate deal, a 26 to 28 percent reduction in carbon pollution by 2025 versus 2005 levels.

But the Rhodium analysis is worth examining because it appears to be the first of its kind and because some in the media are already misreporting its basic conclusion.  For instance, Politico’s “Morning Energy” blasts the headline “WITHOUT CLEAN POWER PLAN, ITC AND PTC ARE BRIDGES TO NOWHERE” and begins “Up to 50 gigawatts of wind and solar installations might not happen if courts ultimately overturn the Clean Power Plan, the Rhodium Group said in a report released today.”

No and no.  The report itself concludes, “in all but the low gas price case, the future is bright for wind and solar.”  It’s true that without the CPP, there might be up to 50 gigawatts less renewable capacity than Rhodium previously forecasted.  But, more importantly, it’s also true that in the most probable of Rhodium’s new scenarios (low gas prices AND low renewable prices), there are actually 20 gigawatts more renewables without the CPP than Rhodium forecast last month with the CPP!

Read more at Even Without EPA’s Clean Power Plan, ‘the Future Is Bright for Wind and Solar’

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