AWEA: Opportunity for Wind Energy Under Clean Power Plan Could Reach 100 GW

The American Wind Energy Association’s (AWEA) internal assessments currently show about 100 GW of opportunity for wind under the Clean Power Plan, Michael Goggin, senior director of research for AWEA, said on Sept. 11.

“Wind energy is one of the most widely available choices for states to use for compliance,” Goggin said during an AWEA briefing on the final Clean Power Plan and the anticipated role for wind energy.

Speaking during the briefing, Tom Vinson, vice president of federal regulatory affairs for AWEA, said that changes in the final Clean Power Plan rule for how the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) treats renewable energy in setting state targets likely will provide a greater opportunity for wind to play a role in states’ compliance than was available in the draft rule.

“Our view was that the alternative proposal that EPA had put out with respect to considering the economic and technical feasibility of renewables is a way to incorporate renewables into state target setting, and made a great deal of sense,” Vinson said. “We were pleased to see that EPA went in that direction in the final rule.”

According to Vinson, the way the final rule sets the state targets has had the effect of shifting around some individual state targets and improving the opportunity for wind.

Compliance and Development Time Frames

Under the final rule, states can choose either a rate-based compliance program – tons of CO2 per MWh – or they can choose a mass-based compliance program – total tons of carbon.

Even though MWh generated by facilities built after 2012 can only be used for compliance starting in 2022, there still are incentives for developers to move ahead now with wind energy projects, according to Vinson.

“In a mass-based concept, if you’re deploying wind energy now, then you are lowering the overall tons that you’re going to start the compliance period with in 2022, because the MWh being generated by wind are going to displace tons from your fossil units,” he said. “In a rate-based concept, you would have a larger zero-emitting asset base if you build wind between now and then that you could start 2022 with.”

In addition, EPA included a Clean Energy Incentive Program (CEIP) in the final Clean Power Plan as an incentive to begin emissions reductions in the near term.

Under the CEIP, eligible projects – wind, solar or energy efficiency in low income communities – can generate credits that can be banked in 2020 and 2021 to be used for compliance in 2022 or later.

The CEIP is capped at 300 million tons, Vinson said, and EPA is taking comments on the program for certain policy design elements.

Gene Grace, senior counsel for AWEA, said during the briefing that EPA may decide to carve up the 300 million tons so that half would go to energy efficiency, and the remaining would be divided between solar and wind. He added that there is also a chance that other zero-emitting resources might be incorporated into the program.

Political and Legal Considerations

While the U.S. Congress has been looking for ways to put limitations on EPA’s final rulemaking or block it altogether, Vinson said AWEA does not expect those legislative challenges to succeed.

“Even if they were able to get through both the [U.S. House of Representatives] and the [U.S.] Senate and get to [President Barack Obama’s] desk, the President has been very clear that he would veto those [challenges], and I don’t think anybody sees the numbers in Congress necessary to override a Presidential veto,” he said.

In terms of court challenges, AWEA expects that as soon as the final rule is published in the Federal Register, a new round of lawsuits against the rule will be filed.

“We generally believe that the final rule is on a solid legal foundation, but we do concede that 111d does not have a ton of legal precedent, and no one can say with certainty how those legal cases are going to play out,” Vinson said.

Lead image: Wind farm to produce clean energy. Credit: Shutterstock.

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