Florida at an Energy Crossroads
How will the Sunshine State Comply with the EPA Clean Power Plan?
- Under the EPA's proposed Clean Power Plan, states are afforded an almost unprecedented degree of flexibility to meet the standard in a manner that reflects the unique conditions in any given state. Florida has no shortage of cost-effective clean solutions to meet its energy needs while also reducing carbon and other pollution.
- The question before policymakers is whether to pursue a constructive State Plan that maximizes the job creation, economic development, and emissions reduction potential of energy efficiency and renewable energy, or one that puts the interests of the fossil industry before those of Floridians.
- Florida can seize the opportunity presented by the EPA's Clean Power Plan to respond to the challenge of climate change while taking advantage of its renewables and efficiency potential.
On June 2, 2014, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the Clean Power Plan, which establishes standards for carbon emissions from existing power plants. Despite its significant contribution to the climate change that threatens Florida's infrastructure and economy, carbon pollution has never before been limited by the EPA, unlike co-pollutants sulfur and mercury. Under the Clean Power Plan, each state is required to reduce the carbon intensity of its power fleet between 2020 and 2030. This report aims to examine Florida's electricity sector, past resource allocations, and various paths the state may follow to comply with the Clean Power Plan.
In 2012, Florida's power sector emitted about 1,200 pounds of carbon dioxide pollution for every megawatt-hour (MWh) of electricity produced. For the sources that will be affected by the Clean Power Plan, this amounts to 108 million metric tons, equal to the yearly pollution from more than 22 million cars. Given the Clean Power Plan's current proposed targets, Florida would be required to reduce the intensity of its electricity resources (including resources provided by demand-side energy efficiency measures) to 740 pounds per MWh. The state may decide how to achieve these reductions, using any measures it chooses to reduce fossil power plant carbon pollution. Florida can choose measures best suited to its resources and economy and join in multi-state/regional approaches to compliance.
The EPA based each state's target on a limited set of actions, or "building blocks." These include:
- reducing statewide demand for electricity through efficiency programs;
- adding renewable energy like solar and wind;
- running gas plants -- which emit less carbon and other air pollutants -- more frequently;
- improving the efficiency of existing coal plants.
But, states are free to pursue these or any other measures as long as their plan demonsrates that it can achieve the assigned target.
The overall costs -- and net benefits -- of complying with the Clean Energy Plan will be driven by Florida's choices in drafting and submitting its state plan to EPA. In a directly related proceeding currently before the Florida Public Service Commission, these very questions are being deliberated on, with the state's major utilities proposing to drastically reduce already anemic energy efficiency programs and, instead, saddle consumers with the bill for massive new investments in fossil fuel infrastructure. The outcomes of that case will have a direct bearing on Florida compliance.
Florida can seize the opportunity presented by the EPA's Clean Power Plan to respond to the challenge of climate change while taking advantage of its renewables and efficiency potential. By crafting a plan that finally begins to capture these untapped resources at the appropriate pace, Florida can create jobs, promote innovation in nascent industries, and become more resilient through the diversification of its energy system.
last revised 8/14/2014