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Policy Brief: New U.S. power plant regulations will help secure U.S. climate goals

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New U.S. power plant regulations will help secure U.S. climate goals

The EPA’s new power plant proposal takes critical steps towards 2030 and 2050 targets

CGS Experts

Nathan Hultman, Director

Alicia Zhao, Research Manager

Shannon Kennedy, Senior Manager for Strategic Engagement

Hultman, N., Zhao, A., Kennedy, S. (2023). ”New U.S. power plant regulations will help secure U.S. climate goals.” Center for Global Sustainability, University of Maryland. 2 pp.

  • The EPA’s new proposal to limit greenhouse gas emissions from power plants will take the United States one major step closer to meeting our goals to cut U.S. emissions in half by 2030 and to reach net zero emissions by 2050. 
  • Regulatory actions to drive accelerated adoption of CCS and the phaseout of unabated fossil fuel generation can deliver substantial new emissions reductions in 2030. Any rule eliminating unabated fossil generation by 2040 would exceed previous estimates for ambitious strategies. Preliminary analysis by the Center for Global Sustainability at the University of Maryland indicates that new regulations of this type—when combined with other actions from the federal government, states, cities, and other actors—can help reduce emissions in the power sector by over 70% by 2030 from 2005 levels. Preliminary analysis* estimates that this type of rule can support power sector reductions of up to 82% by 2040 from 2005 levels. 
  • Our preliminary analysis* indicates that such action in the power sector accelerates reductions by complementing other actions to drive down emissions, such as tax credits for renewables and deployment of carbon capture and storage (CCS), state-level standards, and many others. 
  • In conjunction with the Inflation Reduction Act’s 45Q tax credits, such rules can extend action beyond the IRA tax credit’s lifespan to sustain and rapidly extend reductions on the path to net zero by mid-century. Together, a suite of actions that reduces and eliminates unabated fossil-fueled electricity generation through 2040 could achieve up to 72 MtCO2e in annual emissions reductions by 2030. The maximum technical potential for reductions over this period is 317 MtCO2e annually. The specific trajectory over time will depend on the details in the final rule. 
  • Power sector regulations such as the one being announced by EPA form part of a broader U.S. strategy across all sectors and greenhouse gases—drawing on momentum from the federal government and subnational actors—to clean up pollution and achieve rapid emissions reductions in support of our U.S. goals of 50-52% reductions by 2030 and net zero emissions by 2050. 
  • This type of rule is a critical and complementary step towards cementing the U.S. transition to a clean economy. At the same time, it is only one part of a larger suite of actions needed in the power sector and others. The rule will also underscore the need for continued investments to enable a just, clean, rapid, and affordable energy transition for our most vulnerable communities, ensuring breathable, safe air for all.

*This preliminary analysis conducted by the Center for Global Sustainability at the University of Maryland based on America Is All In “Beyond 50” analysis and basic assumptions about the levels of unabated fossil generation driven by a power sector rule between 2030 and 2040. After the proposed rule has been made public, additional and updated analysis will be undertaken to give a more detailed picture of the impact of EPA’s potential actions on power sector decarbonization in the United States.

The EPA's new power plant proposal is a critical step toward achieving healthier communities, building a vibrant, clean energy economy, and attaining U.S. climate goals. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has announced a new proposed regulation governing emissions from fossil-fueled power plants. This rule could accelerate current trends in the U.S. power sector toward a cleaner and lower-emissions electricity generation mix, primarily if the rule requires carbon capture technology for new and existing gas power plants and existing coal plants. In doing this, in line with recent analyses we have done for U.S. decarbonization pathways, it could also add another critical policy driver for achieving the overall U.S. climate targets of a 50-52% economy-wide emissions reduction by 2030 and a net zero emissions economy by 2050.


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