Portland, 4 August (Argus) — California, Oregon and Washington could face a relatively easy path to compliance with new federal rules for CO2 emissions from the power sector.
The three states could end up over-complying with their targets under the federal Clean Power Plan, potentially giving their leaders leverage in trying to convince inland neighbors to create a regional compliance plan for the regulations.
All three Pacific coast governors praised the final rule issued yesterday and said they would quickly begin work on figuring out how to comply. If the three joined a common trading program and kept their emissions in line with the US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) projections for 2020, they would run a surplus of about 67mn short tons of CO2 by 2030, based on the tonnage targets the agency assigned each state. EPA also assigned CO2 rate targets for states to meet from 2022-2030, allowing the states to choose between the two.
That stands in stark contrast to the inland portions of the 11-state western grid. The other eight states plus tribal areas would need to cut a cumulative 336.1mn st of CO2 from 2022-30. If the states banded together for a regional compliance plan, the surpluses run by the coastal states could help ease the shortfalls in the other states.
The western US electric grid is characterized by inland power plants serving electric demand in the coastal states. Some of the highest-emitting units along the Rocky Mountains are partially owned or have power purchase agreements with electric utilities in California, Oregon and Washington.
California’s economy-wide cap-and-trade program will complicate efforts to create a regional or national market under the Clean Power Plan. The state would likely have to separate its power sector from the current cap-and-trade program. The state is committed to its economy-wide program and has been working to find more trading partners after linking with Quebec.
The state will need to cut power sector emissions by about 35mn st from 2022-2030 under the Clean Power Plan, but should be well-positioned to comply because of its existing trading program and a host of related policies. The state legislature is poised to approve raising the state’s renewable energy mandate to 50pc by 2030 and set more aggressive energy efficiency targets. Those policies would allow the state to exceed its federal obligations.
Oregon and Washington benefited from significant changes to how EPA calculated their 2012 baselines, leading to significantly higher 2030 targets than in the proposed rule. The targets are also higher than the states’ projected emissions for 2020. But direct comparisons between the proposed and final targets are difficult because of changes in EPA’s methodology.
EPA adjusted Washington state’s baseline for coal and gas generation and emissions by 207pc to account for 2012 being an unusually wet year, with a warm winter that led to significantly lower demand for fossil fuel-fired generation. EPA raised Oregon’s baseline by 118pc. The states have some of the cleanest power sectors in the US because of an abundance of hydropower. Idaho and Montana received similar adjustments as well.
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