By now, you’ve likely heard of the Clean Air Act: a law designed by the federal government, under which the EPA must create and enforce regulations that reduce contaminants that are deemed harmful to people and the planet.
Under that sweeping, umbrella Act, there’s the Clean Power Plan, one of the EPA’s answers to that charge; the plan involves new standards aimed at reducing carbon emissions from power plants.
Of course, most Americans want less pollution and cleaner air—in essence, a healthier planet. But many aren’t sure exactly what the Clean Power Plan does, and others in varying industries wonder how it will affect them. Let’s break it down:
What is the Clean Power Plan?
Under the plan, there are specific carbon emissions rate reduction targets, and they vary by each state. Each state has flexible options by which to achieve these goals, with options ranging from making efficiency upgrades at fossil fuel plants to utilizing more renewable energy resources. States can use these options however they choose, and can submit their own individual courses of action. If all goes according to plan, emissions from the electricity sector, for instance, would be reduced by 30% by 2030.
How Will it Affect Plants?
The first differentiating factor to consider is how the plan will affect new plants versus modified and existing ones; there will be differences between the two, with more emphasis on change for existing plants. The reason, according to those in charge, is that existing plants are the largest source of national carbon dioxide emissions, with much of it coming from older coal power plants. Newer coal plants are considered much more efficient.
Existing natural gas plants will also be affected and will be expected to make significant changes, but as they are typically newer than coal plants, and emit about half the amount of greenhouse gases as coal, they can possibly expect fewer drastic changes.
Either way, changes will not be expected to happen overnight: states will have a year to come up with a specific plan once the EPA’s final proposal is presented (probably mid-2015). Specifically, changes will be expected to come through improving energy efficiency, upgrading and updating plants, and other ways that state leaders agree upon.
Within the overall plan, a very large emphasis is being placed on renewable energy and encouraging states to make use of it. Those who work in or with the wind and solar energy industries will see a major boost—this includes manufacturers making parts or equipment used by these industries.
While changes are coming, you can rest assured they’ll most likely be gradual, and we can hope they’ll be for the best.