Expert: Energy efficiency should be major part of state’s CO2 reduction plan

LITTLE ROCK — Energy efficiency should be a major part of Arkansas’ plan to comply with a proposed federal rule on reducing carbon dioxide emissions, an official with a national nonprofit group that promotes energy efficiency said Thursday.

Neal Elliott, associate director of research for the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, gave a talk to the Arkansas Advanced Energy Foundation on the role energy efficiency can play in reaching compliance with the proposed rule, which seeks to reduce CO2 emissions nationwide by 30 percent by 2030 but would require Arkansas’ power sector to reduce emissions by 44 percent.

Elliott said the EPA is giving states flexibility in deciding how to put their plans together and how much emphasis to place on energy efficiency. He said his group has estimated that nationwide, energy-efficiency programs and policies already in place could reduce electricity demand by 25 percent or more by 2030 and could reduce carbon emissions by 26 percent relative to 2012.

In Arkansas, energy efficiency could meet more than 40 percent of the state’s target, Elliott said.

“Arkansas should include as much energy efficiency as possible,” he told the foundation members gathered at the Little Rock headquarters of Heifer International.

Elliott said there is no reason for states to hold off on implementing energy-efficiency programs.

“Any action that is implemented on or after June 8, 2014, counts toward meeting your target. Do it early, because the sooner you do it, the more savings that are out there,” he said.

Elliott praised Arkansas for being several weeks ahead of the rest of the country in beginning to hold stakeholder meetings on the proposed rule.

He acknowledged that “energy efficiency is not free.” He said the scenario envisioned by his organization would require the investment of $47 billion nationally in energy-efficiency programs, but he said it would save retail customers $95 billion, for a net savings of $48 billion.

“It costs something. It just costs less than the alternative,” he said.

Elliott gave the talk two days after two state legislative committees adopted a resolution opposing the proposed EPA rule, known as the Clean Power Plan. The House and Senate committees on Insurance and Commerce adopted the resolution after hearing testimony from utility officials who said the rule could force the closure of two coal-fired power plants— including the White Bluff Electric Power Plant in Jefferson — and cost thousands of jobs in the state.

Steve Patterson, executive director of the Arkansas Advanced Energy Association, said Thursday, “Rather than economic catastrophe, we think the Clean Power Plan offers an opportunity for power companies, for consumers and certainly for advanced energy companies to modernize our electrical system and improve our quality of life.”