Wednesday, August 03, 2016

The Northeast Is Considering a Major Extension to Its Emissions Program

A wind turbine stands, generating power next to Hull, Mass. (Credit: AP Photo/Stephan Savoia, File) Click to Enlarge.
When the EPA released the Clean Power Plan last year, a lot of people freaked out.  In fact, more than half of U.S. states joined a lawsuit challenging the plan, which seeks to limit greenhouse gas emissions from the electricity sector.

Opponents have argued that the plan is draconian, heavy-handed regulation that will kill jobs and drive up electricity bills.

In fact, nine northeastern states are already using a framework to lower electricity emissions — and it has been a massive success.

The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, known as RGGI (pronounced: Reggie), is a carbon pricing mechanism that limits emissions and invests in efficiency and low-emission generation. Since it was implemented in 2008, RGGI states have seen a 37 percent decrease in emissions from electricity, while simultaneously decreasing consumer costs.  RGGI will also function as a compliance plan for the Clean Power Plan, according to multiple industry sources — if it stays effective.

Right now, RGGI is under review — and businesses, environmental groups, regulators, universities, and private citizens are encouraging the states to double down on the program. They say extending the program to 2030 and lowering the annual limit on emissions will ensure RGGI stays successful.

Using Market Forces For Good
Under its current structure, the region’s cap on emissions decreases by 2.5 percent each year until 2020.  But, in order to reach the 2030 standards set by the Clean Power Plan, the emissions cap will have to double to 5 percent each year.  As an economic lever, a stronger, longer emissions cap will create more market certainty for power producers.

Right now, “the markets aren’t sending a strong enough signal.  You’re seeing things like less investment in wind and solar,” Mark Kresowik of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign told ThinkProgress.  “The key is getting the RGGI cap right.”

Read more at The Northeast Is Considering a Major Extension to Its Emissions Program

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