William Fang & Eric Holdsworth,
Edison Electric Institute
As the debate continues over what the U.S. should do about the climate change issue, the electric power industry plans to continue leading all sectors of the economy in voluntary efforts to address this issue. The Power Partners-the nation’s six electric utility associations and the Tennessee Valley Authority-will supply the leadership. The agreement the group signed with U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) last December will provide the roadmap.
The power industry formally began its voluntary efforts to address the climate issue in 1994. More than 650 electric utilities-municipal, rural cooperative and shareholder-owned-worked through EEI and DOE to create the “Climate Challenge.”
These utilities pursued a variety of voluntary actions, including improving and expanding output from nuclear and fossil fuel plants; increasing energy-efficiency and demand-side management projects; investing in efficient electric technologies, methane recovery, forestry and fly ash reuse projects; and initiating renewable energy projects.
The efforts paid off. In 2003 alone, these voluntary efforts reduced, avoided or sequestered an estimated 266 million metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions-nearly two-thirds of the total reductions and offsets reported to the government that year.
In February 2003, the electric power industry formed Power Partners to respond to President Bush’s Climate VISION (Voluntary Innovative Sector Initiatives: Opportunities Now) program, which sought to reduce the greenhouse gas (GHG) intensity of the economy-measured as carbon-equivalent emissions per unit of economic output-by 18 percent by 2012. Each segment of the nation’s power generating community signed on-American Public Power Association, Edison Electric Institute, Electric Power Supply Association, Large Public Power Council, National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, Nuclear Energy Institute and TVA.
The Power Partners agreed to cut the carbon intensity of the power sector-measured as the ratio of CO2 emissions per kilowatt-hour generated-by an equivalent of 3 percent to 5 percent by 2012. This reduction will be on top of the 10 percent drop in carbon intensity that has occurred since 1980, due in part to the industry’s Climate Challenge initiative. In December 2004, the Power Partners and DOE signed an agreement that outlines the types of activities that will achieve this reduction in carbon intensity. Industry-wide initiatives and individual company actions will be two keys.
The Power Partners have been assessing and developing a series of industry-wide programs. The following are now enabling individual utilities to pool resources and collaborate in pursuit of the sector-wide carbon intensity goal:
The PowerTree Carbon Company is a new reforestation effort in the lower Mississippi River valley to remove more than 1.5 million tons of CO2 from the atmosphere and store it in native hardwood trees.
The Coal Combustion Products Partnership (C2P2) is expanding the use of coal combustion byproducts in lieu of cement in building materials. The goal is to increase the use of combustion byproducts from 32 percent to 45 percent by 2008, and in so doing, increase CO2 savings from today’s approximately 14 million tons to 20 million tons of CO2 annually by 2010.
The International Power Partnerships (IPP) program works with DOE and the U.S. State Department to fund projects promoting renewable energy, clean-coal technology and other GHG-reduction opportunities overseas.
As with the Climate Challenge program, individual company actions will be the cornerstone of the Power Partners program. In the last two years, a number of electric companies have pledged a wide range of initiatives. These include increasing output from nuclear power plants, developing programs to sequester CO2, expanding the use of renewable energy sources, offering green power programs for customers and increasing options for customers to participate in energy-efficiency and demand-side management programs. A number of electric companies also have voluntarily specified individual CO2 reduction targets.
Through their agreement, DOE and the Power Partners are also developing four projects involving multiple industries. These cross-sector ventures will:
“- accelerate commercial adoption of advanced “Ëœclean-coal’ systems and gasification technologies,
“- determine the most suitable technologies and infrastructure needs for carbon capture, storage and sequestration across the country, recognizing that regional approaches will be required to address the sequestration of CO2,
“- develop an electric utility hybrid “bucket” truck that once hybridized, could serve cable and telecommunications companies, and hundreds of thousands of other urban work trucks, and,
“- achieve greater market penetration of energy-efficient new homes.
accelerating R&D investment
The final element outlined in their agreement is for the Power Partners and DOE to work collectively to create a process for developing technologies that would reduce GHG emissions. DOE and the Power Partners, with EPRI’s assistance, will focus on both identifying high-priority areas for power sector research, development, demonstration and deployment (“RDD&D”), and then recommending steps to carry out power sector RDD&D in those areas.
Currently, the industry is working with DOE on a variety of technology programs, including jointly funded research and development, the Clean Coal Power Initiative and the government’s FutureGen advanced coal plant project. The goal of each is to move promising technology along the research and development path to commercialization.
Examples of the new advanced clean-coal technologies include super-critical pulverized coal and integrated gasification combined cycle plants. Ultimately, this work is expected to achieve ultra-low/near-zero net emissions.
Along with the other climate actions outlined in the agreement between DOE and the Power Partners, developing new technologies will be vital for the industry to meet the country’s future demand for electricity, and respond to the public’s concerns about climate and other energy and environmental issues.
The Energy Information Administration (EIA) is projecting a 50 percent increase in electricity demand over the next 20 years. It also sees coal-based power generation growing from 1.97 trillion kilowatt-hours (KWH) to 2.89 trillion KWH over the same period to help meet this growing demand. Some nuclear capacity will also be added, and the permitting, construction and licensing of new nuclear plants have been proposed by several consortia of utilities and other companies. In addition to baseload generation additions, the power sector is expected to add considerable renewable energy capacity and engage in further energy-efficiency and demand response activities.
Fang is deputy general counsel and climate issue director and Holdsworth director, climate programs, with the Edison Electric Institute in Washington, D.C. For more information, research them online at www.eei.org.