Solar, wind and other alternative energy businesses in Arkansas are supporting a plan by the Environmental Protection Agency to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants.
Arkansas Advanced Energy Association Policy Director Ken Smith spoke in favor of the plan at an EPA field hearing held in Atlanta on Tuesday. About 400 people were scheduled to testify on EPA’s proposed Clean Power Plan. Thousands of people have signed up to speak at hearing that EPA is holding this week in Pittsburgh, Atlanta, Denver and Washington D.C.
The proposed EPA rule is directed squarely at the nation’s coal-fired power plants that are the single largest producer of carbon emissions that contribute to climate change. The goal is to reduce annual CO2 emissions by 30 percent by 2030. EPA has set state-specific targets in the 645-page document but is allowing some flexibility in how states will achieve those reductions.
Entergy Arkansas Inc. officials have said they are uncertain how the change would affect the White Bluff coal-powered plant near Jefferson, because it is still unclear as to how the change will affect statewide energy production as a whole.
Smith said AAEA supports the plan’s flexibility and its approach for achieving carbon emission reductions on a state-by-state basis. But, he said, the plan should give states credit for any improvements that are achieved ahead of the rule being adopted.
AAEA has recommended that renewable energy and energy efficiency programs/projects and other lower carbon emitting technology installed between 2014 and 2020 should be credited for Clean Power Plan compliance.
“Unless the EPA finds a way to count advanced energy measures implemented between 2014 and 2020 toward a state’s clean power plan compliance target, it is likely that businesses and power companies will delay further investment in advanced energy technologies until 2020. We can’t believe that is EPA’s intent,” Smith said.
AAEA represents more than 80 Arkansas companies including BioEnergy Systems in Fayetteville, Arkansas Solar in Fort Smith and Rooftop Wind Power in Little Rock.
The Arkansas congressional delegation has expressed serious concern about the rule and the impact it may have on electric rates. Higher utility costs, they said, could discourage manufacturing in the state.
The Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corporation issued a statement in June — when the proposed rule was announced — expressing its concern that the move away from coal would end up costing ratepayers.
“We are disappointed that this EPA rule will reduce our use of coal, which is our most economical and reliable fuel to generate electricity,” AECC President Duane Highley said at that time. “Although the proposed rule leaves the precise implementation details to the states to develop, the inevitable result will be the use of more expensive fuels, such as natural gas.”