In our inaugural post on the business-policy nexus, Tom Murray highlighted the implementation of President Obama’s Clean Power Plan as an opportunity for companies to be leaders. Why should companies be motivated to get involved? Because they care about having access to competitive, clean energy and tools and incentives for smart energy management, which will help them meet their sustainability and carbon goals while cutting costs.
The decisions being made in the coming months on the Clean Power Plan proposal can help accelerate the transition to a cleaner energy economy for years to come, expanding the demand and market for renewable energy and energy efficiency. Any sustainability officer who has tried to price green power on the market or build the business case for an energy efficiency program has a stake in the outcome.
What is the Clean Power Plan?
Known in policy circles as 111(d)–the relevant section of the Clean Air Act–the Clean Power Plan creates the first national limits on carbon pollution from existing power plants. It does so by setting state carbon pollution reduction targets specifically tailored to each state’s energy infrastructure and emission reduction opportunities. Part of the President’s Climate Action Plan that was announced in June 2013, the Clean Power Plan is expected to achieve a 30% reduction in carbon pollution from the U.S. power sector by 2030, as compared to 2005 levels.
Support for common sense pollution limits is diverse and strong—public polling has found that 64% of Americans believe the government should limit greenhouse gas emissions from existing fossil fuel-fired power plants to address climate change and improve public health. Power plants – the focus of the Clean Power Plan – emit nearly 40% of the carbon pollution in the United States. This initiative is a huge opportunity to make a meaningful dent in carbon emissions.
What Does This Mean For Businesses?
For many companies working in the clean energy or energy efficiency sectors, they will see direct benefits as demand for their products and/or services grows.
The bigger point is for companies in general: not only can the Clean Power Plan drive greater access to energy efficiency and renewable energy opportunities in the states and regions where companies operate, it’s also expected to lower average electricity bills overall in 2030.
We’ve already seen how cutting greenhouse gases can drive economic activity, in the nine states participating in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). Investments from the first three years of RGGI alone, largely in efficiency programs, are saving customers over $1 billion on their energy bills. The RGGI states have seen power sector emissions drop 40 percent–even as the regional economy grew by 7 percent.
Within the Clean Power Plan’s broad, flexible framework there are many possible paths to the goal–some that can be beneficial to companies even if they are not part of the power sector, which is why it is important to pay attention and even get involved.
For example, programs in Minnesota and Illinois, as described below, could potentially be adopted, expanded, and adapted by other states/regions to comply with the Clean Power Plan and can benefit a broad cross-section of companies:
- Minnesota has a program in place to offer companies incentives to make their facilities–from office buildings to manufacturing plants–more energy efficient. The state offers a wide variety of utility energy conservation programs in the residential, commercial and industrial sectors, targeted to both retrofitting existing buildings and new construction.
- Illinois has both renewable energy and energy efficiency standards in place, and has seen its overall electricity market prices go down because of growth in zero-marginal-cost renewable energy sources like wind. This matches what we are seeing across the country–wind and solar have been cheaper than new coal-fired power in some places.
These two states (and every state) have different goals under the Clean Power Plan and different pathways available to achieve them. This is your opportunity to make your voice heard within the states you operate in and create a pathway that will make it easier for you to reach your corporate carbon reduction, green power sourcing and energy efficiency goals.
How Do You Get Involved?
Companies like yours have an opportunity to engage with state officials, utilities and other stakeholders to shape your state’s implementation plan. There are many ways to get involved in this process. Your company can:
- take part in stakeholder groups;
- offer public comments to decisionmakers working on state plan development;
- weigh in with state energy regulators overseeing energy planning decisions; or
- engage with both state legislators and your Member of Congress by sharing your energy efficiency or renewable energy stories or advocate for various policies and programs.
If you would like further guidance or help in getting involved, please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This is your opportunity to not only drive the creation of incentives that will support your company’s carbon reduction goals, but also a chance to help transform the entire energy system. Now that’s what we call leadership!