Energy Efficiency Center Stage in EPA’s Proposed Carbon Standards

Jeffrey Swafford

Last week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)—under President Obama’s Climate Action Plan—proposed a plan to reduce carbon emissions from power plants. The EPA’s proposal calls for reducing carbon emissions by 30 percent from 2005 levels by 2030. The text of the plan spans 645 pages, and requires quite a bit of fortitude (and coffee) to plow through. Today’s blog post provides a brief overview of the proposed plan and describes how energy efficiency will play a fundamental role in meeting proposed emissions reduction targets.


At the center of EPA’s proposal is a set of carbon emissions reduction targets for each state. Targets were developed by first evaluating each state’s carbon intensity in 2012 and then evaluating the emissions reduction potential for a set of common savings measures. States have very different starting points when looking at 2012 emissions, so it is reasonable to expect they will have different goals for 2020 and 2030. In addition, state targets developed by EPA are not based on an overall national emissions reduction target. The national estimates—26 percent reduction by 2020 and 30 percent reduction in 2030—did not inform the state targets. Instead, these national estimates are the cumulative result of each state meeting its specific emissions targets.


How will states meet the emissions targets developed by EPA? EPA’s plan also serves as an initial blueprint for states to use in meeting their targets. Each state will be required to submit its own plan by June 2016 for meeting emissions targets. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all option that EPA recommends. Instead, states can choose from a grab-bag of measures to reduce emissions that best suit their needs. Four primary building blocks are identified by EPA:

  1. Make coal plants more efficient;
  2. Use gas plants more effectively;
  3. Increase wind and solar; and
  4. Energy efficiency.

ENGIE Insight has a long history of supporting its clients on this fourth building block―energy efficiency.


EPA’s plan recognizes that energy efficiency is a major untapped resource. Efficiency is specifically mentioned 328 times in the 645-page document. Efficiency is essential for making any state emissions reduction plan cost-effective. Every dollar invested in efficiency programs (e.g., rebates for upgraded appliances and lighting) returns on average at least three dollars in customer savings. Additionally, efficiency efforts can be scaled up rather quickly when compared to other reduction measures. Twenty-six states have energy efficiency resource standards (EERS) and most states invest in efficiency programs of some kind. States already investing in energy efficiency programs will be able to build on these programs in meeting their emissions target under EPA’s plan.

It’s safe to say that each state will have its own path to meeting EPA’s proposed emissions reduction targets. Nevertheless, it’s certain that energy efficiency will play a huge role throughout the nation as we develop plans for reducing our carbon emissions.

Sources: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Natural Resources Defense Council, Grist

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