Can CPP Rollback Bring Coal Back?

EPA officially nixes CPP…and other news in utilities, renewable energy

The Environmental Protection Agency, a branch designed to protect the natural human and animal habitats of Earth, has completed one of the more controversial moves in its history. The EPA finalized the rollback of the Clean Power Plan on June 19th. In replacement, the agency issued the Affordable Clean Energy Rule (ACE), which is described as “replacing the prior administration’s overreaching Clean Power Plan with a rule that restores rule of law, empowers states, and supports energy diversity.”

One of the cornerstones of Barack Obama’s administration, the CPP was a comprehensive set of goals designated to cut back carbon emissions from power plants and businesses in the United States, and was aligned with worldwide carbon reduction goals through international agreements such as the Paris Accord of 2015-16. The Trump administration’s abrupt departure from that climate agreement just two years later—along with its constant opposition to the CPP—are enough alone to illustrate the differences between the last two EPAs. The United States is now one of three nations without comprehensive carbon reduction goals (Nicaragua, Syria). The official CPP repeal and corresponding implementation of the ACE format is widely viewed as a final offensive by the Trump administration on the coal front, an industry it pledged to save during its initial campaign.Coal-trolley-vector-icon-by-tutukof-580x386

Storage, carbon capture bills introduced in Congress. On the flip side, a number of legislators continue to fight for laws that will facilitate cleaner power generation. Congress has introduced two separate bills aimed at leveling the playing field for energy sources receiving tax incentives. In early June, both the Financing Our Energy Future Act and the Carbon Capture Improvement Act of 2019 were brought to the House floor for consideration. Both initiatives focus on changing the tax code to accommodate renewable energy technologies such as storage, solar, wind, and carbon capture. Currently, private investment in energy technologies is limited to “traditional” forms of power generation, making it far more difficult for non-coal/gas/oil companies to get monetary support from outside their own sector. The bills are supported by bipartisan groups such as the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, the American Council on Renewable Energy, Amazon, the Carbon Capture Coalition (CCC), Ceres, Energy Storage Association, (ESA) the National Association of State Energy Officials, Natural Resources Defense Council and the Solar Energy Industries Association.

Offshore at the Shore. The largest offshore wind project in the U.S. to date is moving forward. New Jersey state legislature cemented a contract with Orsted last Friday for a 1.1 GW project about 15 miles off the coast of Atlantic City. In all, Joizey intends to add 3.5 GW of offshore power to various points of its coastline by 2030.

Hydrogen-ergy. The next emerging form of renewable energy generation could come from hydrogen cultivation. While the term might seem new, it is best comparable to a more familiar term: hydropower. The combustion of hydrogen with oxygen produces water as its only byproduct, a more environmentally-friendly outcome than fossil fuels, which produce carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide, as Renewable Energy World details in this report from June 6. Hydrogen can be used directly as fuel in power generation and other heat applications, and can be blended with natural gas in pipeline networks. “In particular, hydrogen used with fuel cells (a device that converts chemical potential energy into electrical energy) is most promising for heavy duty transport applications (like trucks, rail, and ships) and industrial applications which require both electricity and heat,” REW says.

GE Renewables update. General Electric’s latest CEO (Larry Culp) predicted his Renewables branch would be in for a good year in 2019, and one of the company’s most profitable. That may remain true, but some cross-analysis has doubts about the division’s future beyond this year, due to the competitive gap between Siemens and Vestas, combined with GE’s own internal strife.

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