GEI’s Policy Recommendations
DEQ’s Climate Protection Program (Cap and Reduce)
Out of all of Oregon’s regulatory agencies, the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and the Environmental Quality Commission (EQC) have the most substantial climate-focused actions to accomplish by 2022. Under Governor Kate Brown’s Executive Order on Climate (EO 20-04), DEQ and the EQC must develop a program to cap and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from industrial and fossil fuel sources in the state. Staff attorney Amelia (Amy) Schlusser participated in DEQ’s Climate Protection Program Rulemaking Advisory Committee (RAC), a group of stakeholders convened to inform the development of Oregon’s greenhouse gas regulations. GEI offered policy recommendations to ensure an equitable and effective program.
Transitioning from Fossil Fuels
Fossil fuels continue to dominate the energy sectors in the United States, and without policies designed to transition away from fossil fuels, they will remain dominant for decades to come. GEI is working to hasten this transition away from fossil fuels and toward renewable sources, and encouraging careful planning to avoid creating stranded assets that will disproportionately affect vulnerable communities.
Least-Risk Utility Resource Planning
GEI’s least-risk planning work aims to promote a transition to effective utility planning that aims to avoid long-term risks typically associated with fossil fuels, rather than focusing narrowly on short-term costs. As part of this work, GEI has produced a report showing how least-risk planning can promote use of more renewable energy. The report also identifies “best practices” for least-risk planning. GEI is working on projects that explore how least-risk planning can address existing investments in renewable power.
Clean Power Plan
The EPA’s Clean Power Plan requires states to develop plans to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from existing fossil fuel-fired power plants. The rule encourages states to implement an array of strategies to reduce emissions from existing power plants. In addition to controlling emissions directly from affected generating units, the Clean Power Plan gives states the option to reduce emissions through deployment of lower or non-emitting resources, including renewable energy and demand-side energy efficiency. The rule also permits states to participate in market-based emission trading programs with other states. This flexible approach enables states to select the most cost-effective strategies for reducing power sector emissions. However, the available compliance strategies each carry different risks and rewards. States must identify optimal implementation strategies for their own power sectors that will enable the bulk electricity system to maintain reliable operations on a regional scale. GEI is evaluating policies and strategies that will support Clean Power Plan implementation at the state and regional levels.
Utility 2.0: Utilities for the 21st Century
The rapid growth of renewables in the United States has led utilities to fear a “death spiral,” in which they could face ever-increasing costs and ever-declining revenues, ultimately leading them to insolvency. This “death spiral,” however, does not have to occur if utilities and their regulators engage in careful and strategic planning. GEI’s Utility 2.0 work explores the options utilities have for adapting the century-old utility business model to the electricity system of the 21st Century.
Distributed Generation of Solar Power
Interest in distributed renewable energy generation—particularly from solar photovoltaic systems—had expanded rapidly in the past decade. But policies in many places have not adjusted to support cost-effective, sustained, and equitable development of distributed generation. GEI’s work in this area explores ways to lower the costs of solar and to provide new models of investment in solar power.