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Western states get new CO2 modeling tool

Emily Holden, E&E reporter

Published: Thursday, May 5, 2016

A Colorado-based organization this week released a modeling tool for 12 Western states considering how they might meet power-sector carbon reduction goals under U.S. EPA’s Clean Power Plan.

The Center for the New Energy Economy at Colorado State University coordinated development of the tool for Western states that have been meeting to hash out planning efforts.

Built by the firms Energy Strategies LLC and Fovea LLC, the modeling tool uses validated information from 17 Western electric utilities. It reviews integrated resource plans for coal plant retirements and new renewable energy projects to calculate emissions trajectories without the Clean Power Plan.

It allows states and utilities to see their “compliance gaps,” or how much they must cut carbon in order to comply with the federal standards, said Jeff Lyng, a senior policy adviser for CNEE. They can then look at how various policy decisions — like shutting down a plant or ramping up gas use — might impact their progress.

Earlier versions of the modeling platform included information for five and then seven states.

The modeling tool is one of a dozen being used by industry interests and state officials, but it is unique because it relies on utility-verified data, Lyng said. It’s also important because it allows states to use a common data set, although many utilities are also conducting their own modeling and using more sophisticated systems for making power decisions.

The tool does not include California and does not estimate the costs of various policy decisions. It does cover the other 12 states that have been exploring the rule with CNEE: Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Wyoming, Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota.

CNEE’s multistate group last met on April 5, although only 10 of the original 13 state members attended. Before that, the group met most recently in November, said Patrick Cummins, the project lead.

At the meeting last month, state officials heard updates on Washington state’s regulatory and legislative efforts to reduce greenhouse gases, Nevada’s New Energy Industry Task Force, Oregon’s 50 percent renewable energy target and coal phaseout legislation, and California’s cap-and-trade program.

“A lot of the meeting was a roundtable, where the states updated each other on all of these activities,” Cummins said.

The states are hoping to hear more from EPA about whether the agency will release updated model carbon-trading rules, Cummins said.

Doug Scott, the vice president of strategic initiatives at the Great Plains Institute who is coordinating regional meetings on the rule, said Midwest states are also looking for that information. A group of 14 states coordinated by the Georgetown Climate Center also recently requested that and other details from the agency (ClimateWire, April 29).

Scott also noted that states within the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO) and the PJM Interconnection LLC grid organizations have met separately to discuss compliance since the Supreme Court halted implementation of the rule.

The Midcontinent States Environmental and Energy Regulators, the group of MISO states, had a webinar recently to review modeling results with the Bipartisan Policy Center.

The PJM states will hold a similar meeting soon to discuss modeling with Duke University’s Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions. Several state officials, including from Georgia, plan to attend a Nicholas Institute meeting in Charlotte, N.C., on May 11, according to travel approval requests.

The states are mostly attending “to try to get information” and “look at potential compliance pathways,” said Scott, who couldn’t disclose which states are involved.

Reviewing ‘set it and forget it’ energy policies

CNEE, in partnership with the Nature Conservancy, yesterday also launched a website to track state progress on various clean energy policy goals.

The “State Policy Opportunity Tracker” (SPOT) incorporates public data from 18 organizations that follow energy efficiency programs, state legislative action and renewable power development. The tool took more than a year to produce with a team of eight researchers, Lyng said.

It rates states on 38 clean energy policies, divided into three areas: market preparation, creation and expansion.

“This isn’t a letter grade or a number grade for states,” said Lyng. “We’re just trying to address where is there further work that could be done.”

For example, Texas gets about 3.5 out of 5 for its renewable portfolio standard but might be able to do better, compared with other states, by making the renewable portfolio standard target higher or providing incentives for utilities that comply.

SPOT links to full policy briefs that explain each issue and how other states stack up.

The tool is meant for policymakers, whether in legislatures or state energy offices, Lyng said.

They may want to revisit some policies or consider “cleanup” legislation, he said.

“There’s some set it and forget it when it comes to these policies,” he said, and officials should re-evaluate them as the power sector develops.


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