States are urging the Obama administration to get them credit for energy efficiency programs in U.S. EPA's carbon-curbing regulations for existing power plants.
EPA will rely on states to craft plans to comply with the proposed rule that would set standards for carbon dioxide emissions under Section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act.
Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz told reporters today at the 2014 Energy Efficiency Global Forum in Washington, D.C., that EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy is offering states as much flexibility as possible, and states are playing up efficiency programs.
"She's certainly hearing from the states that efficiency would be an effective tool," Moniz said.
During an online forum earlier in the week, McCarthy said that President Obama had tentatively decided to introduce the existing power plant proposal himself on June 2. The rule is the centerpiece of Obama’s Climate Action Plan unveiled last year, and environmentalists have urged the administration to do everything it can to ensure it delivers serious reductions -- including by improving demand-side energy efficiency.
The administration has homed in on regulation and administrative measures to bolster efficiency -- and curb greenhouse gas emissions -- amid gridlock on Capitol Hill.
Moniz noted that the White House in recent weeks has announced billions of dollars in new spending and standards for energy efficiency and support for the solar industry. The administration is also offering clean energy incentives for real estate investors and homeowners and private-sector commitments to installing and financing renewables.
"I cannot see a credible resolution for our climate change challenges without an enormous contribution from the demand side," he said. "We can't get there on our supply side [alone]."
Moniz acknowledged that the focus on such mechanisms is critical in light of tough sledding for bipartisan efficiency bills on Capitol Hill.
Moniz pointed to the stalled efficiency legislation from Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio), which failed to make it to the Senate floor, tripped up by amendments and attempts to link the passage of the bill to other proposals like the Keystone XL pipeline (ClimateWire, May 21).
The Shaheen-Portman bill, Moniz said, appeared to have broad bipartisan support but "no pathway to implementation."
In the House, Moniz said, a bipartisan energy efficiency measure that Republican Rep. Cory Gardner of Colorado and Democratic Rep. Peter Welch of Vermont introduced would also ultimately need bicameral support. Gardner and Welch's bill would encourage federal agencies to use energy savings contracts to attract private-sector investments in efficiency improvements at government buildings and schools (Greenwire, April 30).
"We'll just have move with as many administrative tools as we can," Moniz said, adding that the administration hopes to garner funding for efficiency despite budgetary constraints.
Moniz's comments at the conference coincided with the Alliance to Save Energy's launch of its "Energy 2030 on the Road" campaign aimed at doubling U.S. energy productivity by 2030 -- namely through state and local outreach.
Nicole Steele, the alliance's director of policy and state relations, said the group -- including businesses like Dow Chemical Co., universities, and a number of environmental and nonprofit groups -- is focused on federal pathways for boosting efficiency, but the new messaging campaign will focus on getting as many state and local governments as possible to support the goal of doubling efficiency.
A portion of the group's work, Steele said, will be to ensure that states can tap into energy efficiency to comply with EPA's 111(d) -- and that will be a "next step" after EPA releases its rule.
"Using energy efficiency has an emissions reduction tool is a specific recommendation within Energy 2030," she said.
Reporter Jean Chemnick contributed.