In the latest move toward more stringent power plant standards, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) unveiled a draft rule that aims to reduce emissions from the power sector by over 75% by 2030. The rule, which represents the Biden administration’s response to the Supreme Court’s rejection of the Proposed Clean Power Plan, outlines five emissions reduction targets for different types of plants. For instance, new and existing gas plants are required to capture 90% of their emissions by 2035 or shift primarily to hydrogen by 2038. Similarly, existing coal-fired power plants are expected to achieve the 90% target by 2030, but only if they plan to remain operational by 2040. The rule is based on achievable emissions reductions with carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology, although it doesn’t mandate the switch to renewables.
The discussion among environmental experts suggests that this rule offers a more flexible approach to achieving significant emission reductions. Still, it’s limited by the Supreme Court’s ruling, which hampers the EPA’s capacity to mandate renewable energy. The reliance on CCS and hydrogen technologies as the basis for the standards is noteworthy, given their cost. It’s a move that potentially encourages power generators to opt for cheaper renewable solutions or retire existing fossil fuel-based plants.
While the rule sets a slow trajectory, with no requirements until 2030, the impact is significant—it aims to reduce CO2 emissions by ten million metric tons in 2028 compared to the previous year. The hope is that this approach will drive the retirement of some coal-fired power plants while avoiding the need for expensive retrofits. Despite the challenges, the EPA highlights the broader benefits, including preventing 300 premature deaths due to air pollution and producing up to $85 billion in benefits from avoided climate change and health impacts by 2030.
1. NRDC, “The EPA Tackles Power Plants’ Carbon Pollution,” https://www.nrdc.org/bio/lissa-lynch/epa-tackles-power-plants-carbon-pollution, Accessed May 18, 2023
2. Grist, “Is carbon capture viable? In a new rule, the EPA is asking power plants to prove it.,” https://grist.org/energy/is-carbon-capture-viable-in-a-new-rule-the-epa-is-asking-power-plants-to-prove-it/, Accessed May 18, 2023