New Analysis: Electric Sector on Track to Meet Clean Power Plan

Landmark climate plan on solid legal ground as clean energy booms

WASHINGTON – Market forces and newly extended federal incentives are driving an unprecedented growth in clean energy that is creating good jobs, reducing harmful carbon pollution and helping the United States transition from dirty fossil fuels to clean power, according to a new NRDC report released today.

The rapid move to clean energy suggests that the U.S. is solidly on track to meet the federal Clean Power Plan, which takes effect in 2022 and is projected to cut carbon pollution nearly a third below 2005 levels by 2030. Even so, the U.S. will need it  to ensure the reductions are fully achieved, the experts from the Natural Resources Defense Council and clean energy investor DBL Partners said during a telephone-based press conference today.

NRDC experts, furthermore, debunked the notion advanced by polluters, who have gone to court to stop the Clean Power Plan, that defeating it would somehow help rekindle fossil fuel power.

“Just as King Canute could not hold back the incoming tide, King Coal cannot hold back the rise of the seas – or the clean energy transition,” said David Doniger, director of the Climate and Clean Air Program at NRDC. “The electricity sector is rapidly moving toward a low carbon future, thanks to market forces and smart federal and state policies, and the power sector’s carbon pollution is coming down as a result.

“As renewable energy tax incentives phase out in the 2020s, the Clean Power Plan will pick up the ball.”

In her comments, Nancy Pfund, founder and managing partner at DBL Partners, highlighted the expected growth in electric vehicles, renewable energy, clean energy job creation, energy storage and the impact of clean energy policies on the electricity sector and reduced demand for oil.

The 41 million electric vehicles expected on the road by 2040 could displace 13 million barrels per day of crude. The solar workforce has grown 123 percent since 2010 and employed 208,000 workers in 2015, far outpacing the national average. And, with battery storage technology advances the U.S. tripled energy storage capacity between 2014 and 2015.

“Americans are voting with their wallets and choosing clean energy, electric vehicles, sustainable products and energy efficiency in increasing numbers,” said Pfund. “As prices come down across the sector and performance goes up, these choices reflect what we at DBL call the ‘No Sacrifice’ approach to investing in our clean energy future: 'No Sacrifice’ means no compromises required on cost, functionality and design as we take major steps to reduce our collective carbon footprint.

“We foresee continued investment in companies that are building 21st century energy iconic brands, and the whole world is taking notice,” she added. “Pivotal to this investment renaissance is continued constructive policy that sends the right price signals for our clean energy future, including the Clean Power Plan and other efforts to price the now largely externalized costs of carbon.”

NRDC’s issue brief, “The Clean Power Plan: Keeping Climate Progress on Track,” summarizes recent studies of the carbon pollution reductions coming from the five-year extension of the Production Tax Credit for wind and Investment Tax Credit for solar power, which Congress approved at the end of last year. Those studies demonstrate that thanks to these tax credits, the power sector will be well positioned to meet the Clean Power Plan when it takes effect in 2022. 

“Clean energy is playing a larger and larger role in how we power our homes and businesses,” said Starla Yeh, senior policy analyst in NRDC’s Climate and Clean Air Program. “That is great news, because of the numerous benefits of clean energy for Americans, including job growth, lower energy prices, cleaner air, and climate protection. Thanks to market forces and the tax credits that Congress extended last year, renewable energy growth is giving us a great head start on meeting the Clean Power Plan limits. The Clean Power Plan will to keep us on track towards our long term pollution reduction goals, and the U.S. can and must build on this progress and accelerate its transition towards and a clean energy future.”

An audio recording of the telephone-based press conference is available here:

The issue brief, “The Clean Power Plan: Keeping Climate Progress on Track,” is available here:


The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 2 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Livingston, Montana, and Beijing. Visit us at and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.

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