On June 2, 2014 the EPA released its Clean Power Plan to regulate CO2 emissions from existing power plants. The Clean Power Plan has focused renewed attention on the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states’ Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) as an effective program and flexible approach for states to meet EPA requirements.
During five plus years of operations, RGGI has helped Northeast and Mid-Atlantic States achieve significant reductions in emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other dangerous pollutants from the electric power sector. At the same time the program has generated significant economic benefits in the region.
Envisioning a clear pathway towards meeting long term greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction targets of 80% by 2050 has been a difficult and elusive task. Yet, an exciting convergence of technology advances and success in reducing carbon emissions from electricity generation points towards viable solutions that can be implemented now to be on the right path. It may seem counterintuitive, but the key is to rely more on decarbonized electricity to power transportation and buildings. Consider this hypothetical: if all gasoline powered cars on the road and all buildings heating with fossil fuels immediately switched to modern electric technologies like electric vehicles and high efficiency cold weather heat pumps, GHG emissions from these sources in the Northeast would be cut in half. With further efforts to transition electricity generation to renewable resources, emissions would continue to fall. Dramatic changes to our power grid, more decentralized and community energy approaches and redoubled efforts to maximize energy efficiency are needed to make this vision real.