Study shows energy efficiency and renewable power can meet 60 percent of new power needs projected by vice president
WASHINGTON (May 3, 2001) - Energy efficiency and renewable power, largely dismissed by Vice President Cheney in a recent speech, can meet 60 percent of the nation's needs for new electric power plants over the next 20 years, according to NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council). NRDC based its calculation on the conclusions of a November 2000 Department of Energy report that the Bush administration has completely ignored.
In his April 30 speech, Cheney said the United States needs to build 1,300 electric power plants (averaging 300 megawatts) between now and 2020, which would amount to "more than one new plant per week." At the same time, he downplayed the potential for energy efficiency and renewable energy sources, suggesting that conservation is just "a sign of personal virtue" and that relying on renewable energy sources would threaten "our way of life."
However, the November Energy Department report, "Scenarios for a Clean Energy Future," concluded that energy efficiency measures could avoid the need for building approximately 610 of the new power plants Cheney calls for, and that renewable power capacity (wind, geothermal, biomass and others) could expand by the equivalent of about 180 new plants. The report did anticipate building 570 new high-efficiency, natural-gas-fired plants, but those would replace older, dirtier and less-efficient plants. The report, which was written by experts at 11 Energy Department facilities, is available at www.ornl.gov/ORNL/Energy_Eff/CEF.htm.
How did the vice president arrive at his 1,300 power plant prediction? Cheney and other Bush administration officials base their forecast on projections by the Energy Information Administration (EIA), an arm of the Energy Department that has historically emphasized energy supply from traditional sources and downplayed the potential of energy efficiency and renewable energy. The EIA projects that demand for electricity will increase by 320,000 megawatts over the next 20 years, and that the United States will have to replace existing plants that generate another 70,000 megawatts. Assuming an average power plant size of 300 megawatts, Bush administration officials calculate we need 1,300 new power plants, fueled mostly by coal and natural gas.
"The Bush-Cheney energy plan is the 'more pollution solution,' " said Daniel Lashof, an NRDC senior scientist and coauthor of "A Responsible Energy Policy for the 21st Century," a comprehensive energy plan published by NRDC earlier this year (go to www.nrdc.org for the report). "It would mean higher profits for the oil and coal companies that funded President Bush's campaign; and higher energy prices, more smog and more carbon dioxide -- the main cause of global warming -- for the rest of us."
The Energy Department's "Clean Energy Future" report "shows that the nation has another choice -- one that emphasizes increasing the efficiency of our homes, factories and office buildings, and the appliances, heating and cooling equipment, and other machines inside them," said David Doniger, NRDC's global warming policy director. A responsible energy policy would:
- Limit the major pollutants from power plants, including carbon dioxide (which George W. Bush endorsed as a candidate but has rejected as president);
- Establish stronger efficiency standards for appliances and buildings (President Bush is trying to weaken the efficiency standards for air conditioners issued by the Clinton administration);
- Establish a fund to increase energy efficiency investments by utilities and other energy service companies, supported by a charge on electricity transmission;
- Establish a "renewable portfolio standard" requiring a certain percentage of electricity to come from renewable sources;
- Create tax incentives to expand the market for high-efficiency technologies and renewable generation; and
- Increase funding for energy efficiency and renewable energy research and development. (President Bush has proposed dramatic reductions in these programs in his current budget).
Contrary to Cheney's claim, this clean and efficient energy path would not require Americans to make sacrifices, said Dr. Lashof. In fact, it would significantly enhance their lives. Americans would save more than $30 billion per year on their electric bills. Power plant emissions that cause smog and dangerous fine particles would decline by more than half of current levels. And power plant emissions of carbon dioxide would be cut by one third from today's levels.