EPA GHG REGS: We Read the Comments, So You Don't Have To, Part 5: Industry Groups and Environmental Groups

Posted by Frank Swigonski and Caitlin Marquis on Jan 26, 2015 5:41:00 PM

After the comment period closed on December 1, the stats were in: EPA received more than 4 million comments on the Clean Power Plan from individuals, organizations, and state regulatory bodies. It would take 71 people working eight hours a day from now until June to read them all. But don't worry—our Carbon Policy Analysts identified the top comments and plowed through them. This is the fifth of five blog posts presenting AEE’s summary of and take on comments from a few key stakeholders: federal and state regulatory organizations, states, ISO/RTOs, utilities, and industry and environmental groups. This final post covers comments from industry groups and environmental groups.


In its comments, AEE emphasized the greater role advanced energy technologies could play in the Final Rule, making suggestions ranging from strengthening the renewable and energy efficiency targets to providing guidance on EM&V to clarifying that a variety of advanced energy technologies will be accepted in state compliance plans. Many industry associations, NGOs and private-sector companies submitted their own sets of comments, some of which took positions that aligned closely with AEE’s. While AEE presented a unique perspective in its comments, a very diverse group of organizations and companies share its positions on many key issues.

In supporting the Clean Power Plan, AEE provided detailed and substantive legal justification for EPA’s Proposed Rule and its interpretation of BSER as including “outside-the-fence-line” measures. A variety of other organizations provided support for the “outside-the-fence-line” approach. The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) both defended this interpretation. The National Resource Defense Council (NRDC) similarly cited legal precedent in defending the EPA’s use of Section 111(d) and its inclusion of “outside-the-fence-line” measures. The Sierra Club explained the justification for EPA’s interpretation of BSER succinctly, saying, “...the four building blocks are effectively ‘at the unit’ measures that reduce affected EGUs’ utilization, because these measures are being and can be implemented or sponsored by owners and operators of affected sources.” Many other organizations have implicitly accepted EPA’s approach to BSER by taking it for granted in their comments.

AEE also argued that advanced energy technologies can provide substantially greater emission reductions than those expected by EPA, offering suggestions for strengthening Building Block 3 and 4. In terms of Building Block 3, AEE was not the only trade association arguing for stronger renewable energy targets; AWEA, SEIA and the Business Council for Sustainable Energy (BCSE) all supported changes to the Proposed Rule that would bring renewable targets into better alignment with current market trends. These trade associations were echoed by many private companies, including several AEE members, which see more potential for renewable energy expansion than is accounted for in the Proposed Rule. Environmental groups also want to see more renewable energy in the Final Rule: NRDC, the Sierra Club, and the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) argued for stronger renewable energy and energy efficiency goals.

Similarly, AEE provided a number of comments supporting a strong energy efficiency target under Building Block 4. One of these comments focused on EPA’s choice to only acknowledge utility-based energy efficiency programs, excluding components of energy efficiency, including third-party energy service companies (ESCOs), CHP, and building codes. AEE members Johnson Controls and Ingersoll Rand submitted joint comments with other ESCOs explaining the potential role of private-sector performance contracting in delivering energy efficiency savings under the Proposed Rule. The role of ESCOs was also echoed by a diverse group of environmental NGOs, trade associations, and other private companies.

In addition to endorsing more stringent targets under BSER, AEE recommended that EPA explicitly recognize more advanced energy technologies as compliance options in the Final Rule. Several other trade associations, such as BCSE, the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) and the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM), also advocated for specific advanced energy technologies to be given recognition as compliance options. The American Gas Association (AGA) asked EPA to affirm the role of gas technologies such as CHP and waste heat recovery.

Several organizations went further than AEE and argued that certain technologies and policies should not only be allowed for compliance, but also be included in BSER, which would ultimately result in more stringent emission reduction targets. ASHRAE and the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) both argued for the inclusion of building codes in the BSER for purposes of setting state targets.

AEE additionally pointed to areas where EPA should provide additional guidance or clarity around issues such as crediting for out-of-state renewable energy and acceptable EM&V methodologies, a suggestion echoed by environmental groups, renewable and energy efficiency trade associations and private companies alike. Environmental groups such as Sierra Club agreed that renewable energy generation should be credited to the state that invests in or incentivizes the development of the renewable energy, rather than the state where the energy is generated. This  is in line with the position taken by AEE and the renewable energy industry as represented by SEIA and AWEA. AEE members GE and RES also requested additional clarity on this issue.

Several groups also echoed AEE’s comment that EPA should provide guidance around acceptable EM&V measures available to states for verifying emission savings, particularly for energy efficiency. AEE members Johnson Controls, Ingersoll Rand, Opower, and CSG provided expertise from the private sector on this issue by supplying data and suggestions on EM&V for the Final Rule. Finally, a broad spectrum of groups - including AWEA, SEIA, NRDC, BCSE, UCS, and AEE members Opower, RES, and GE - agreed that EPA should provide credit for actions taken prior to 2020, a point AEE argued in its comments.

Reliability has emerged as a major concern of states, utilities and RTOs alike. AEE weighed in on this issue in both sets of comments to EPA, explaining that the Clean Power Plan is an opportunity to modernize the electric power system and providing numerous examples of the benefits that advanced energy technologies can bring to the electric grid in addition to emission reduction. NRDC and Sierra Club reiterated these arguments, with Sierra Club adding that a reliability safety valve is not necessary to ensure continued reliability under the Proposed Rule. SEIA and AWEA also gave examples from the renewable energy industry of how advanced energy technology contributes to grid reliability. Citing a range of studies affirming the role of natural gas in enabling renewable power, the American Natural Gas Alliance commented that natural gas “provides grid operators the freedom to accept capacity from renewable energy sources without putting electric system reliability at risk.”  

 Download AEE's Comments

Topics: EPA GHG Regs