Multiple Studies Confirm: Ohio Can Cut Carbon from its Power Fleet--Affordably and Reliably--With Clean Energy

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In the 11 months since the Clean Power Plan was proposed last summer, naysayers have been spinning doomsday scenarios claiming that cutting carbon would somehow be costly or would plunge Ohio into the dark ages.

This could not be farther from the truth.

In reality, the new federal rules were created to protect our health and encourage economic growth by increasing energy efficiency and more renewable energy to reduce carbon pollution, the biggest contributor to climate change.

We know a lot of the naysayers aren't simply making their unfounded accusations for their own health. When you follow the money trail, you'll see the path usually leads to their bottom line. In fact, they actually should be worried about their health because it's been well documented that climate change is an active threat to the wellbeing of Ohioans across the state. With Ohio carrying the ignominious distinction of emitting the nation's 4th largest carbon pollution plume, and with four cities in Ohio ranking amongst the 20 most polluted in the country, inaction is simply not an option.

(But that's a blog for another time...)

Thankfully, the doomsday scenarios are being proven untrue again and again. The latest example is from NRDC, showing Ohioans will actually see lower bills if clean energy is used to meet the proposed carbon targets.

Change can be hard--except when clean energy comes into play

Those rallying against the Clean Power Plan appear to be clinging to the old adage that Change is Hard.

But for the rest of us, when energy efficiency and renewables are brought in as the heavy artillery to curb carbon pollution, we're finding that it's actually easy.

In fact, Ohio has been making the change toward cleaner, greener power for more than five years, with wildly successful programs totaling over $1B in savings for customers statewide, all while dramatically reducing carbon emissions at the same time. Moving toward more energy efficiency and renewable energy is proving (again) the best path forward for the state.

This path is illuminated yet again in the context of the Clean Power Plan.


Studies by NRDC and the Organization of PJM States (PJM), for example, and a report by the Analysis Group, are adding to the mounting evidence showing the emissions reductions set out in the Clean Power Plan are achievable and affordable for Ohio--particularly when clean energy comes into play. And thanks to the state's years of progress and investments, we can build upon these energy efficiency and renewables progress to get across the finish line. That is, if lawmakers reverse their unfortunate decision last year to freeze the efficiency and renewables requirements and lift the absurd wind setback requirement that has effectively halted all commercial-scale wind developments in the state.

The recent studies demonstrate Ohio won't have to undergo much change at all to address climate change-fueling carbon emissions, if we reinstate the state-level policies that were previously implemented with such success.

Here's why:

NRDC modeling reveals lower energy costs

This week, NRDC released an analysis demonstrating that the average Ohio household could enjoy reduced electric bills if the state develops its own plan to cut emissions through its existing energy efficiency and renewables policies. With these policies reinstated, Ohio can achieve its 2030 carbon target affordably at the state's own pace.

Our analysis shows if Ohio increases energy efficiency and invests in renewable energy sources (such as wind and solar power) to cut carbon, the state would be so close to the 2030 target that it may not even need to look elsewhere. This flexible approach allows the state to phase out existing power sources (such as coal-fired power plants) over time, allowing Ohio to adjust its own diverse resource mix in a way that works best for the state.

PJM modeling demonstrates achievable pollution reductions AND cost savings

The electricity grid operator whose very job it is to ensure that the lights stay on across 12 states, including in Ohio, found earlier this year that Ohio can satisfy the Clean Power Plan targets if it coordinates with neighboring states and focuses on clean energy. Equally importantly, the data shows the state can accomplish these goals at a low cost without compromising dependable electricity services that support Ohio's households and businesses. That's right, you heard me--the experts in charge of keeping the lights on say they can and will stay on.

These findings are bolstered by a prior PJM assessment from 2014 concluding that the Ohio grid could support 30% wind and solar energy and see drastic reductions in pollution and costs--all without impacts on reliability.

The Analysis Group confirms the reliability of the grid under the Clean Power Plan

Experts from the Analysis Group conclude reliability is NOT a "significant concern" under the Clean Power Plan.

The grid operators that manage the flow of electricity in the various regions across the country (including PJM) are well positioned to lower carbon pollution from existing power plants while looking to the reliability tools and operating procedures it already uses with great success.

In fact, according to the Analysis Group, PJM is already adapting to changes underway in the electric industry, and doing so successfully from a reliability point of view.

As a region with electric capacity totaling approximately 200 GW, PJM has seen some 12.5 GW of mostly aging, coal-fired resources retire during the 2010-2014 period, due largely to economic and regulatory factors. Another 7.6 GW is expected to be retired over the next 3-4 years. These plants are being replaced with new resources--primarily natural gas-fired and renewable projects--and there is a deep bench of additional new proposed projects ready to step in to meet future needs.

To be sure, PJM has demonstrated success with reliability challenges in the past, including retirements related to low natural gas prices and the MATS rule, and stresses on the fleet during the winter 2014 Polar Vortex. In the latter case, PJM called upon energy efficiency and demand response to save the day during extreme cold weather, preventing potentially life-threatening power shortages across much of the Midwest and Northeast.

These events are a kind of proving ground for grid operators like PJM, demonstrating how numerous planning, operational, and market tools can rise to the occasion to ensure that service is maintained while implementing the Clean Power Plan.

And those making claims to the contrary simply are ignoring the cold hard facts. Instead they are turning a blind eye both to the proven competency of our nation's grid operators, as well as the grid-strengthening power of energy efficiency and demand response.

Ohio can lead the Midwest--IF it gets its clean energy potential back on track

Ohio was once emerging as a regional clean energy leader but recent ill-advised policies are taking the state backward, sending in-state solar power packing, making clear to outside investors that the state's clean energy industry is not open for business.


Getting back on track and fully harnessing the state's energy efficiency and renewable energy potential will facilitate Clean Power Plan compliance and reposition Ohio at the forefront of the clean energy economy, and possibly even the Midwest.

For years, we've been tip toeing our way across the shallow end of the clean power "pool." Based on the evidence and analyses already out there we know Ohio is more than ready to jump in with both feet when the rule goes final this summer.

Change is good, particularly when it's already underway. And especially when we know we will succeed.