EPA Clean Power Plan Key to U.S. Climate Change Action Plan

On Monday, June 2 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a proposed rule entitled the Clean Power Plan (CPP); whose purpose is to reduce carbon emissions from existing power plants.  The goal of the CPP is to reduce carbon emissions from existing power plants by 30% from 2005 levels by 2030.  The CPP is one step taken in response to the President’s Climate Change Action Plan, released a year ago, which set a goal of reducing U.S. carbon emissions 17% by 2020.  The CPP also follows proposed rules to limit carbon emissions from new power plants released by the EPA in September of 2013.

The CPP covers larger electric generating units (EGUs) that sell power to a utility distribution system.  Covered EGUs include any boiler, integrated gasification combined cycle, or combustion turbines (simple or combined cycle) that:

  1. is capable of combusting 250 million BTUs per hour or more
  2. combusts fossil fuel for 10% or more of its total annual heat input
  3. sells the greater of 219,000 MWh per year and one third of its potential electrical output
  4. was in operation or had commenced construction as of January 8, 2014

Given the fuel input and electrical production numbers above a rough approximation of the size of the smallest generating unit that would be covered is 25 MW.  It should also be noted that the state of Vermont and the District of Columbia have no covered EGUs.  EGUs on tribal lands are not covered by the CPP, but tribal governments are encouraged to participate.

The CPP defines a national framework and goals, but gives states flexibility on how to reach those goals.  The CPP sets intensity goals, defined as average pounds of CO2 per net MWh.  Goals are state specific, and vary based on the states level of performance in the 2012 baseline year.  Goals are set at the state level and are not specific to individual EGUs.  The map below shows the percentage reduction each state must make to their CO2 emission intensity (lbs/MWh) by 2030 based on the EPA’s proposed Clean Power Plan.


To assist states with meeting CO2 reduction goals EPA has identified four building blocks that can be used to develop the Best System of Emission Reductions (BSER) for each state.

  • Make fossil fuel power plants more efficient
    (EPA assumes a 6% improvement is possible for coal units)
  • Use low-emitting power sources more
    (Increase the capacity factor to 70% for natural gas combined cycle EGUs)
  • Use more zero and low emitting power sources
    (increase use of renewable resources)
  • Use electricity more efficiently
    (increase demand-side energy efficiency)

States have the option of submitting individual plans to meet emission reduction goals, or working with other states to submit a multi-state plan.  For individual plans states have at least two years, until June 30, 2016, to submit initial or complete plans to reduce CO2 emissions.  Individual states that need more time can ask for a one year extension to June 30, 2017; but an initial plan must still be submitted by June 30, 2016.  Multi-state plans can get a two –year extension to June 30, 2018.  For both individual and multi-state plans EPA has up to 12 months to review and approve plans.  The map below shows existing programs that would likely meet the CPP requirements: California’s Cap & Trade Program and the multi-state Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).


EPA’s Clean Power Plan State Maps website is an interactive map that gives background information on each states’ CO2 emissions, electric generation mix, existing programs such as Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) that help reduce CO2 emissions, among other things.  EPA has also drafted a series of fact sheets on different aspects of the CPP that are shown below.

EPA Clean Power Plan Fact Sheets: