Earlier this week, President Obama announced a series of proposed rules that would reduce the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted by fossil fuel fired power plants. The goal nationally is to reduce emissions by 30% below 2005 levels. Each state has its own reduction goal, reached through a complex calculation based on current energy production sources and possible policy choices. For New Hampshire to comply with these rules, the state would need to reduce emissions from fossil fuel fired plants by more than 46% by 2030.
The Environmental Protection Agency, the body charged with drafting and implementing these rules, calculated that in 2012, fossil fuel fired power plants in New Hampshire released 1119 lbs of CO2 per megawatt hour (lbs/MWh) [i] of electricity produced. With some nuclear capacity figured in, this rate drops to 905 lbs/MWh, which the Agency used as the starting point for reduction calculations.
The EPA’s goal for New Hampshire is for the state to reduce the emissions rate to 486 lbs/MWh by 2030, a cut of 46.3%.The calculations[ii] used to arrive at that figure use four methods to reduce emissions. The first is improving heat efficiency at power stations, which the formula projects would yield a reduction of 18 lbs/MWh. Increasing the utilization of Natural Gas fired plants (thereby displacing coal) is calculated to reduce the rate by 177 lbs/MWh. Additional renewable generation would drop a further 178 lbs/MWh, while efficiency measures would reduce the rate by 46 lbs/MWh. These combined yield a total decrease of 419 lbs/MWh.
Should New Hampshire decided to follow the formula exactly when it comes to renewable energy, it would require an increase in production[iii] from 7% of all electricity produced to 25% by 2030. In comparison, the state’s current Renewable Portfolio Standards requires 23.3% of electricity to come from renewable sources by 2025.
Compared to other states, New Hampshire’s burden is particularly heavy. The required cut of 46% is the 5th highest reduction nationally, percentage wise. This is despite the state currently having the 7th lowest rate of pounds of CO2 per megawatt hour produced. In contrast, other states, like West Virginia are only required to reduce emissions by 20%, while still emitting more than 3.25 times as much per megawatt hour as New Hampshire does.
While the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) drafted the guidelines and the goals, how those goals are met are left entirely to the states.
[i] The EPA, in quantifying current output and reduction targets uses pounds of CO2 per megawatt hour (lbs/MWh) as a unit of measure.
[ii] For the brave, the technical document detailing each step of the calculation: http://www2.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2014-05/documents/20140602tsd-goal-computation.pdf
[iii] In the EPA’s calculations of renewable energy, power from hydro power is not included. To make an apples to apples comparison possible, the figures for the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standards does not include hydro.