Clean Power Plan: An Opportunity to Accelerate Our Clean Energy Transition

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Virginia announces move to tackle carbon pollution at the state level More »

Today Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe took a decisive step forward to fight climate change and to show the nation that, despite key environmental protections being undermined at the federal level, Virginia is moving forward.

“The Governor is showing Virginia and America what true leadership looks like. Climate change poses the single greatest environmental threat the world has ever known. This bold action demonstrates that when Washington fumbles and falls, with the right leadership, the states can lead,” said SELC attorney Will Cleveland. “Hopefully Governor McAuliffe’s actions today will inspire policymakers in other states to follow a similar course.”

McAuliffe’s directive tackles reducing carbon emissions by ordering the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality to write regulations cutting carbon pollution from the power sector. This is the strongest move yet from a southern state to push back on the recent attempts to rollback the Clean Power Plan.

This decision, as well as several pieces of legislation in the 2017 General Assembly session focused on renewable energy, are outgrowths of a panel commissioned by the governor and consulted by SELC. The group is charged with identifying opportunities for progress toward climate change solutions in Virginia.

SELC remains committed to ensuring that renewable energy is made affordable and easily accessible to all and that elected officials across the South continue to do the right thing for citizens, the region, the nation, and the global community.

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Background

In June 2014 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency introduced the Clean Power Plan, the first-ever standards for carbon pollution from existing power plants. Coal- and natural gas-burning plants account for about one-third of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.

The Clean Power Plan, finalized in August 2015, puts forward carbon emission targets for each state based on reasonable adjustments that can be made to the electric system. Meeting these targets by 2030 would cut national carbon emissions from the power sector by over 30% compared to 2005 levels.

While the plan is currently on hold pending a review by the U.S. Supreme Court, SELC continues to advocate for the country's strongest action ever to reduce carbon pollution. Not only is the plan a necessity from a public health and climate perspective, but it provides a milestone opportunity for the Southeast to make smarter choices about how we generate energy in our region and to create new jobs through clean energy investments.

State-based, flexible plan

The projected national reductions are the result of meeting the specific goals for individual states that EPA developed based on their current energy mix.  Not only are the goals tailored to each state, states have considerable flexibility in how to meet them. They can use a variety of tactics, including switching to cleaner-burning natural gas, increasing reliance on wind and solar, and ratcheting up investments in energy efficiency programs.

This state-orientation and policy flexibility perfectly positions SELC to help our region meet—or exceed—the new goals cost-effectively. In fact SELC has already been working to reduce our states’ carbon emissions, and each of our states has seen encouraging progress in recent years.

Reduction of dependence on coal

Coal is the most carbon-heavy of our energy sources, and In the Southeast, SELC has been instrumental in retiring old, uneconomic coal-fired power plants: since 2010 we have helped secured plans or legally binding commitments to retire 30% of the Southeastern coal plant fleet.

Increased energy efficiency

In general the Southeast does not have the strong energy efficiency programs found in other states, so there is potential for significant regional savings on this front. Since 2005 SELC has taken part in over 100 state utility commission proceedings, in many of them highlighting the benefits of greater investments in energy efficiency. 

Increased use of wind and solar power

Solar and wind power hold vast promise as clean and abundant power sources throughout the Southeast, and SELC advocacy continues to yield breakthroughs as our states commit to new solar investments, bringing new jobs to our region.

SELC is also building bipartisan state support for offshore wind energy, emphasizing its economic development and job creation potential. 

Visit EPA's Clean Power Plan website

A state-by-state look at the Clean Power Plan