US power industry asks Senate to impose mandatory emissions reductions

Nine of the US’ largest emitters of pollutants have asked a Senate Committee to implement a plan that would reduce nitrogen oxide, sulphur dioxide, mercury and carbon dioxide emissions at power plants.

“We believe we can make progress on reducing carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions without bankrupting the economy or eliminating coal as a viable fuel supply,” Frank Cassidy, president of the US’ 15th largest energy company, PSEG Power, told the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Technology on 10 July. PSEG Power, with more than 17,000 megawatts of electric generating capacity issued the call on behalf of the Clean Energy Group, an environmentally-conscious coalition of power companies, also comprising Consolidated Edison Company, KeySpan Energy, Northeast Utilities, Conectiv, Exelon Corporation, Northeast Utilities, PG&E National Energy Group and Sempra Energy.

The Group has proposed legislation to limit the annual tonnage of carbon dioxide emitted by power plants to 2000 levels by 2008, and setting a limit at 2.005 billion tons after 2011. To achieve this, the coalition wants a CO2 trading system created similar to those for trading in nitrogen oxide and sulphur dioxide. “Our view is that the best and most prudent course of action – and the one that will foster investment in new energy technologies and the electric energy infrastructure our country needs – is a comprehensive, programme that establishes a clear, unambiguous environmental targets and timetables over the next fifteen years,” Cassidy said.

Cassidy said the group’s plan would not “compromise the reliability, fuel-source diversity, or affordability of the nation’s electric energy supply” – one of President Bush’s primary concerns with emissions reductions programmes. Although the plan “will provide real and significant environmental benefits”, Cassidy said that there was also a strong business rationale for establishing a clear policy on carbon reductions as soon as possible. “Our industry needs to know now what the future environmental requirements will be in terms of the amount of reductions and the timetable,” he said. “We don’t want to confront a situation in which we are forced to waste or put at risk large-scale investments predicated on one set of requirements only to have the rules changed a few years down the road.”

To justify why controls should be mandatory, Cassidy said that only an obligatory programme would work. “This is especially relevant in the highly competitive wholesale power market in which even small cost differentials can provide a material competitive advantage for those who choose not to participate in a voluntary programme,” he said.

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie