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The plan calls for a big increase in energy from renewable sources like this wind farm in Clinton County. Photo: David Sommerstein
The plan calls for a big increase in energy from renewable sources like this wind farm in Clinton County. Photo: David Sommerstein

What the EPA's "Clean Power Plan" means for New York

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On Monday the Environmental Protection agency introduced its ambitious new plan to combat climate change: a proposed regulation called "The Clean Power Plan" which would require fossil fuel power plants nationwide to cut their carbon emissions by nearly a third by the year 2030.

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Judith Enck is the Administrator for Region 2 of the EPA, which covers New York State. She told Susan Arbetter  of the Capital Pressroom that New York’s history of clean energy gives it good running start, as the state works to meet the goal.

Judith Enck: States can choose from a menu of options. They can loop away from coal; states can invest in energy efficiency. They can boost renewables like wind and solar. There is an array of things that states can choose from as long as they reach the goal that EPA has outlined. I think New York is in good shape but they are certainly going to have to do some more stretching to reach the carbon reduction goal that EPA has outlined for New York.

Susan Arbetter: I read that New York will have to reduce their emission rate from 983 pounds per megawatt hour to 549 pounds per megawatt hour by 2030. I don’t really understand what that means so maybe you can help put it into context.

JE: Yeah, no one understands what that means so you’re not alone. Emission rate is the amount of emissions per unit of energy provided. So, if you’re getting a megawatt hour of electricity from burning coal there is a specific emission rate that goes with that. The emission rate doesn’t translate into percentage reduction but as you can see the numbers from 983 to 549, that is a fairly significant reduction that New York State is going to have to make.

I took a quick look at New York’s energy map- 44% comes from natural gas, 30% from nuclear, 18% from hydro, and only 3% from coal. This is what kind of surprised me- wind is at 2% in 2012 and solar is at .04%.

EPA took the liberty of establishing a renewable energy goal for New York in this rule. The New York renewable energy goal in this rule is 18%. You can see we’ve got to do some climbing here. We also established and energy efficiency goal of 12 %.

While I really want to applaud New York for being a leader, these are very ambitious and, some would say, transformational rules that the EPA has come out with. Even a state like New York is going to have to do significantly more to drive down carbon emissions. The good news is I think this sends a really strong signal to the private sector that investments in energy efficiency and renewable energy sources are more important than ever before.

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