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COMMENTARY ARCHVES
   

JULY COMMENTARY
by Share Brandt

Cutting Carbon Pollution

Thank you for helping to make our concerns about the “all but one” energy strategy set forth in the EPA guidelines for new power plants heard in Washington, D.C. The Environmental Protection Agency received comments from more than 500,000 electric cooperative members and friends through the website action.coop.

Now it’s time to make our voices heard about the proposed rule for existing power plants upon which we rely for affordable, reliable electricity every day. The EPA just announced the proposed rule which aims to cut nationwide CO2 emissions from the power sector by 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, nationwide CO2 emissions in 2013 are slightly more than 10 percent below 2005 levels.

There are a lot of details in the plan to work through and analysis to be done about the potential impacts on our existing generating resources. The rule and associated materials and spreadsheet analysis used by the EPA amount to some 1600 pages, and it is very complex. It will take several weeks for utilities to individually evaluate the rule and prepare comments to the EPA proposal.

The rule sets state-by-state specific green house gas reduction. Wisconsin’s goal is to reach a final reduction of 34 percent by 2030. Fortunately, the EPA recognized that regional differences exist and has given the states some flexibility on how to meet the goal. Stakeholder groups and state agencies are already coming together to discuss a state implementation plan. In Wisconsin, our efforts to build renewable energy resources and statewide energy efficiency and conservation goals will be to our credit. However, much more needs to be done to meet the targets set by the EPA. All these efforts will come at a cost to electric consumers.

Wisconsin electric ratepayers rely on coal-fired power plants for 60 to 70 percent of our reliable electricity, depending on the daily demand. Our utilities have spent millions of dollars to improve the environmental quality of these existing plants. We are concerned that our member-owners will be left with the stranded cost of these improvements and replacement costs of building lower carbon emitting generation sources to meet the 2030 targets. The Wisconsin Electric Cooperative Association will be working with other stakeholders to try to mitigate the cost impacts of the EPA rules on our member-owners.

As not-for-profit electric utilities created to serve in rural areas, we care deeply about the environment. We were the first among utilities to adopt demand reduction, energy efficiency, and conservation programs to postpone the need to build additional power plants. We have embraced renewable energy both utility scale and member-consumer owned where the cost is economically feasible for our members to afford. But in the end we have a responsibility to our member-owners who are also our ratepayers to be good stewards of their investments in the cooperative.

When the proposal is published in the Federal Register, a 120-day comment window opens. We need you to let EPA policymakers know how this rule impacts you, the energy consumer. I encourage you to be a part of this debate. Please return to action.coop to tell EPA your concerns about affordable electricity rates.

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