Modernizing the Grid

by Daniel Farber | October 24, 2018

Cross-posted from Legal Planet.

In my last post, I talked about how Obama's Clean Power plan was the right response to a changing grid. The grid is in the process of changing even more. It was designed for some relatively straightforward tasks. The main power plants, mostly burning coal (but sometimes natural gas or nuclear energy), ran day and night. They were supplemented by other power plants when needed to meet load (customer demand). All the power flowed from these central power plants and was instantly used by consumers, who were billed based on their total consumption and sometimes on their peak demand. The fundamental rule was that increasing demand for power allowed for greater economies of scale, reducing costs. Thus the goal of electric utility companies was to increase demand for electricity, thereby lowering average production costs and increasing their profits.

Power systems today have begun to deviate sharply from this model and will do so even more in the years to come. Power is increasingly coming from solar and wind, which are less predictable and more prone to fluctuations. Consumers may generate their own power from rooftop solar and sell it back to the grid. Storing electricity has become more feasible and is likely to play an increasing role in grid operations. Meanwhile, for both economic and environmental reasons, ever-expanding electricity demand is no longer appealing. Consumers are starting to play a more active ...

Jumping the Fence Line, Embracing the Grid

by Daniel Farber | October 23, 2018
Cross-posted from Legal Planet. Click here for the follow-up post. If you've been reading this blog or otherwise keeping up with environmental law, you've probably heard this a hundred times: In rolling back Obama's signature climate regulation, the Clean Power Plan, the Trump administration is relying on the idea that EPA's jurisdiction stops at the fence line. That is, according to the Trump folks, EPA can impose measures on each plant, but not measures that go beyond the fence line ...

The EPA's Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) Rule: Putting Money on ACE Is a Bad Bet -- Part II

by Joseph Tomain | October 10, 2018
This post is the second of a pair on the Trump administration's so-called "Affordable Clean Energy" (ACE) rule. You can read the first post here on CPRBlog.  Industry Trends In short, energy projections demonstrate a clear trend for clean energy and away from fossil fuels. These trends, directly and negatively, affect traditional electric utilities. About the time that rooftop solar financing was being consolidated by third parties such as SolarCity and Sunrun, utilities began to worry about a "death spiral." ...

The EPA's Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) Rule: Putting Money on ACE Is a Bad Bet -- Part I

by Joseph Tomain | October 10, 2018
This post is the first of a pair on the Trump administration's so-called "Affordable Clean Energy" (ACE) rule. You can read the second post here on CPRBlog.  On August 21, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed the Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) rule as a substitute for the Obama administration's Clean Power Plan (CPP). The CPP had been stayed from going into effect by the U.S. Supreme Court, and the purpose of the substitute rule is to establish greenhouse gas emissions ...

The Case for Co-Benefits

by Daniel Farber | September 27, 2018
Cross-posted from LegalPlanet. The Trump administration is moving toward the view, long popular in industry, that when it regulates a pollutant, EPA can consider only the health impacts of that particular pollutant – even when the regulation will also reduce other harmful pollutants. This idea is especially important in climate change regulation because cutting carbon emissions almost always results in reductions of other pollutants like particulates that are dangerous to health. This may seem like a minor technical issue. But by ...

Trump's Proposal to Replace the Clean Power Plan Endangers Public Health and the World's Climate

by Joel Mintz | August 30, 2018
This story was originally published by The Revelator. In his first 19 months in office, Donald Trump has repeatedly defied established presidential norms — so flagrantly that it almost obscures the many ways he's changed national policies for the worse. But despite all the scandals and mean-spirited tweets, it's likely that his most enduring impact will be his administration's systematic, reckless dismantling of ongoing efforts to curtail human-caused climate change. The miseries of global climate disruption are already upon us. ...

The 'Affordable Clean Energy' Rule and Environmental Justice

by Alice Kaswan | August 29, 2018
For disadvantaged communities, the so-called Affordable Clean Energy Rule (ACE) falls far short of the protections and opportunities included in the Clean Power Plan, the Obama administration rule that the Trump EPA is now attempting to repeal and replace. One of the Clean Power Plan's (CPP) essential features was its recognition that the electricity sector operates as an interconnected system. Because of its system-wide approach, the CPP could achieve significant reductions of greenhouse gases and other pollutants by encouraging utilities ...

What's Ahead for Trump's Pro-Coal Rule?

by Daniel Farber | August 28, 2018
Cross-posted from LegalPlanet. You've already heard a lot about Trump's pro-coal ACE rule. You're likely to keep hearing about it, off and on, throughout the next couple of years, and maybe longer. I've set out a rough timetable below, and at the end I discuss some implications. Step 1: The Rulemaking  Aug. 2018 Notice of proposed rule issued (clock for comments starts with publication in the Federal Register) Oct.-Nov. 2018 Comment period closes (60 days after clock starts, unless there are ...

The Off-Switch Is Inside the Fenceline

by Daniel Farber | December 27, 2017
The Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan would require utilities to improve efficiency at coal-fired power plants and reduce the use of those plants in favor of generators using natural gas or renewables. Head of EPA Scott Pruitt claims EPA can only require CO2 cuts that can be accomplished by utilities “inside the fenceline” of a power plant. Under his interpretation, EPA could require a utility to increase the efficiency of a coal-fired plant. But, he assumes, his interpretation would rule ...

The Hill Op-Ed: Trump Administration's Clean Power Plan Repeal Proposal Is Illegal

by William Buzbee | October 30, 2017
This op-ed originally ran in The Hill. The Trump administration's efforts to sidestep finalized regulations through stays or delays have so far met with judicial rejection in three straight decisions. As these courts have concluded, such a deregulatory strategy violates settled law that administrative agencies are bound by their own finalized regulations until they undo them through a new full rulemaking process. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt last week published a proposal to repeal the Obama administration's Clean Power Plan ...

The Pull of Energy Markets -- and Legal Challenges -- Will Blunt Plans to Roll Back EPA Carbon Rules

by Hannah Wiseman | October 17, 2017
Professor Hari Osofsky of Pennsylvania State University co-authored this article with Center for Progressive Reform Member Scholar and Florida State University College of Law Professor Hannah Wiseman. It originally appeared in The Conversation on October 13, 2017. On Oct. 10, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt formally announced a repeal of the Clean Power Plan, regulation intended to curb greenhouse gas emissions from existing coal- and natural gas-fired power plants.  This follows a directive only a week earlier by Energy Secretary Rick Perry for the ...

Foreseeable Yet Lamentable: Pruitt's Attack on Carbon Restrictions

by Daniel Farber | October 10, 2017
An earlier version of this post appeared on Legal Planet. Few things were more foreseeable than the Trump administration's repeal of the Clean Power Plan (CPP). The administration was never going to leave in place a regulation that disfavored coal and promoted the use of renewable energy in electricity generation. The only real questions were when and how. Today, the administration is taking the first step with the release of a proposed rule repealing the CPP. EPA is relying wholly ...

News and Observer Op-ed: Trump Can Order, but Federal Judges Will Decide on Climate Rules

by Victor Flatt | April 03, 2017
This op-ed originally ran in the Raleigh News & Observer. President Trump's new "energy" executive order is an attempt to roll back Obama regulations on climate change, and even make considerations of climate change disappear from much of the policymaking process altogether. That's quite a lot to accomplish by executive order, and despite all the media attention he got for it, the president is eventually going to discover that he can't eradicate climate realities from federal consideration with the stroke ...

Trump's Executive Order on Climate Policy Rollbacks, Annotated

by Emily Hammond | March 29, 2017
Donald Trump's anti-climate action executive order is, as CPR President Rob Verchick puts it, a classic act of bullying. As I describe in an annotated version of the order, it is also irrational, failing to achieve the very aims it purports to support while inflicting damage to our climate, environment, natural resources, wildlife, and yes – even our coal miners.  In the annotation, I walk through each section of the order, providing an analysis and commentary on just what it ...

Sowing Confusion and Doubt, Trump Attempts Climate Policy Rollbacks

by Robert Verchick | March 28, 2017
Donald Trump has been in office only 68 days, and already I've passed the threshold from shock to boredom. His order to erase climate change from federal policy, preceded by a speech before captive members of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), only seals the deal. I served at the EPA during President Obama's first term, helping that agency and others prepare for the hazards of climate change. That work is serious and complicated and subtle. Trump, of course, is anything ...

Is Texas Cleaning Up Its Act?

by Daniel Farber | February 21, 2017
At a national meeting of state utility regulators, the head of the group recently said that the Clean Power Plan was basically dead, but this might not matter because "arguably, you're seeing market-based decarbonization" due to technological changes. Case in point: Texas. Market trends are pushing Republican stronghold Texas toward a cleaner grid. ERCOT, which operates nearly all of the state's grid, recently projected that in the next fifteen years, Texas will add almost 20 gigawatts of solar, equivalent to 15-20 ...

Trump Can't Sweep Safeguards Away as Easily as He May Think

by Matthew Freeman | December 09, 2016
In a statement Wednesday responding to President-elect Trump’s choice of climate change denier Scott Pruitt to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, CPR President Robert Verchick said that the choice was “a clear indication that the administration plans a full-throated assault on environmental protections.” In an op-ed in The New York Times this morning, CPR Member Scholar William Buzbee describes some of the challenges Pruitt and Trump will face as they undertake that regressive effort to unravel the fabric of rules ...

With or Without the Clean Power Plan, It's Up to the States to Transition to Clean Energy

by Alice Kaswan | December 05, 2016
Environmentalists are understandably wringing their hands over the likely post-election demise of the Clean Power Plan, the Obama administration's rule to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, which are the nation's single biggest source of carbon emissions. But, with or without the Clean Power Plan (the Plan), the states hold the cards to a clean energy transition.  Even if the fossil fuel interests intent upon perpetuating a profitable status quo end up dominating Congress and federal energy and environmental ...

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