EPA’s revised Clean Power Plan likely coming today

I would imagine that my musings on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s pending update to the controversial Clean Power Plan may be void by the time many of you read this — assuming the plan is released later today as expected — but I feel it’s still worth discussing given the ambiguous role hydroelectric power played in a draft released by EPA last June.

The plan is a sweeping piece of legislation being pushed by the Obama Administration to decrease the United States’ carbon emissions which, currently, trail only China’s.

As I wrote earlier, the plan “is a performance standard for reducing carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants under the Clean Air Act, Section 111(d), and would require each state to reduce its emissions to meet state-specific standards starting in 2020, with a final rate for 2030 and beyond.”

At the time, the proposal was criticized by the National Hydropower Association because it did “not fully value hydropower’s contributions in reducing past and future levels of carbon emissions from electric systems,” with both existing and future hydropower being “significantly” undervalues.

NHA told EPA that the plant did not “accurately characterize hydropower’s future growth potential”, and, perhaps most importantly, asked that EPA include hydro as a carbon-reducing consideration as states begin shaping their individual policies.

The Clean Power Plan was also criticized by a number of manufacturers and energy generators who felt the prosed timetable was moving too quickly.

Details on the revised plan are scant at this point, but EPA said earlier this week that it will push the rule’s start date to 2022.

Where hydropower figures into the mix remains to be seen, though reports seem to indicate the revised Clean Power Plan heavily favors wind and solar. In fact, the only specific mention of hydro I could find thus far comes from a Reuters report, which states the plans four “building blocks” are “improving efficiency of coal-fired power plants; replacing more coal with natural gas; deploying more wind, solar and hydro power and preserving nuclear power; and expanding consumer energy efficiency programs.”

The lack of clear support for hydropower in the plan is, obviously, frustrating for a number of reasons. And while I know I’m preaching to the choir, is it not prudent to ask why hydropower would not be a core component of the Clean Power Plan given that the federal government is both working on a long-term roadmap for the sector via the Department of Energy’s Hydropower Vision initiative and recently clearly defined hydropower as a “renewable” by way of the Energy Policy Modernization Act of 2015?

Both NHA and countless regional hydroelectric power associations have long hailed hydro as a “common sense” source of green energy — particularly given its extraordinary generating potential using existing infrastructure alone — so why not remove the uncertainty and make it a cornerstone of the EPA plan?

Obviously, we’ll all know more about the plan when it’s released later today. But here’s to hoping for hydropower’s inclusion in the meantime.

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Michael Harris formerly was Editor for HydroWorld.com.

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