Last week I attended the Southeast Energy Efficiency Alliance (SEEA) conference in Atlanta. With that, I have a confession to make: I rarely sit and listen to speakers or take notes either because there is nothing new, and there is rarely any sort of technical or programmatic breakthrough to learn from. There are certainly differences in programs, but it comes down to blocking and tackling, so to speak – the basics – hard work, communication, persistence, trust, and so on. A couple speakers pulled me away from my work. One was a talk by Tim Echols, Commissioner from the Georgia Public Service Commission. He spoke at length about winning people over, doing the right thing, EPA 111(d), and regulation in general. When he started, I was banging away on email. When he finished, I was listening and taking notes.
Of all the tips and requirements I’ve read about making a good presentation, this one never shows up: speak your mind, be genuine, and provocative. How refreshing. Let’s hear someone with a different point of view – an Imperial IPA in a sea of Bud Lights.
Attendees could argue differently, but the message I took from Commissioner Echols was one of genuine pride in his state and how its utilities are serving customers with reliable services and low prices – and with great energy efficiency programs. He specifically trumpeted Georgia Power (a Southern Company subsidiary) as a prime example of this excellence. He did point out that he goes above and beyond to not show favoritism or influence. E.g., when he visits Georgia Power, he even brings his own bottle of water.
Of course the topic of the Clean Power Plan, derived using Clean Air Act 111(d), was part of the discussion, as it was for a dedicated panel of national experts earlier in the week; the latter of which I paid above average attention as well. The Clean Power Plan is a huge topic. I already wrote some about this back in September: Clean Air Act 111(d); Machete Required. There will definitely be more posts in this blog re the topic.
Commissioner Echols was very clear in his position on everything he talked about and why. He explained that Clean Air Act 111(d) was a rip off (my term) for the state of Georgia. Georgia is a significant CO2 emitter but it, via Georgia Power, is leading the nation in the construction of nuclear power plants that emit zero carbon dioxide. I discussed this back in July in Misunderstood Uranium: Boogeyman and Small Boxes.
The Clean Power Plan, specifically the underlying math for setting baselines and targets as developed by the EPA, may be thoughtful and logical to them. To anyone else, it is arbitrary and capricious. Just ask Commissioner Echols.
As I understand it, there are two means by which to meet the Clean Power Plan. The first is a “heat rate” method and the second is an absolute emissions method. The heat rate method calculates lbs. of CO2 emitted per MWh. The absolute emissions is simply lbs. of CO2. Why would you want the more complicated heat rate method? Because that is like efficiency and it mitigates the risk of unknown economic and associated load growth. I think I would take the second because it avoids the arbitrary capricious part and because loads aren’t growing and don’t appear to be growing – but this is my simpleton view.
If you enjoy math and logic puzzles, you may want to check out the Goal Computation Technical Support Document, produced to arbitrarily and capriciously determine baseline emissions in lbs./MWh. One of commissioner Echol’s legitimate gripes is that the rule arbitrarily gives no credit for new power generation by nukes. In determining the baseline emission s rate, nuclear power to be produced by power plants under construction is added to the denominator for the baseline, thus lowering the baseline rate and making goal attainment more difficult. I agree with this complaint. Want to win people over – kick them in the groin when they are already headed in the right direction.
As to what exactly Georgia Power and the state are doing about this? I don’t know, but I would assume another lawsuit is in the works.
There is one additional, major legal hurdle that surfaced since my last Clean Power Plan post. It is one of double jeopardy. The EPA in 2012 established carbon emissions standards for power plants under Clean Air Act Section 112. Section 111(d), the obvious source of the new carbon rules state by state, only applies to sources not covered by 112. It is quite clear that 111(d) was chosen for purposes of assigning targets, state-by-state. Unfortunately, the whole thing appears to be illegal. The case is Murray Energy v. EPA. If you’re a glutton for punishment, you can find and read the text Murray refers to in 42 U.S. Code § 7411(d)(1)(A)(i) (aka 111(d).
This is what happens when regulatory agencies grab bits and pieces of laws to cobble together a Rube Goldberg means to achieve their desired ends.
 Heard the presentation before or it’s the same old song and dance, or preaching to the choir.
 Thank you, Cornell Law School.