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An analysis by the World Resources Institute (WRI) shows that Tennessee can cut greenhouse gas emissions dramatically with little or no change in its power infrastructure.
In keeping with U.S. President Barack Obama’s 2013 National Climate Plan, the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) will announce next month specific limits on carbon pollution nationwide.
Tennessee’s limits aren’t known yet, but a WRI report issued on May 14 says the state can reduce its emissions by as much as 22 percent below 2011 levels in six years without changing its power delivery systems.
WRI, a Washington-based environmental research center, based its Tennessee study on two hypothetical plans. While independent, the two plans agree that by the target year of 2020, the state would be required to reduce emissions of CO2 by 16 to 21 percent below 2011 levels.
One of the scenarios, from the Natural Resources Defense Council, focuses specifically on Tennessee. It would require the state to reduce the emissions by 16 to 21 percent by the target year.
The second is based on WRI’s own scenario, which is national in scope. This scenario envisions a nationwide emissions reduction of 38 percent by 2020, which for Tennessee would mean emissions reductions of 16 percent below 2011 levels.
“Tennessee has already seen a significant shift in the last 10 years towards a more robust, low-carbon economy, and is on a good pathway to lowering its carbon emissions” said WRI’s Michael Obeiter. “Our analysis shows the potential for even greater reductions that can spur innovation and create new opportunities for businesses.”
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WRI’s analysis sets out five ways Tennessee can help meet these reductions using infrastructure that’s already in place.
• Increasing the state’s use of existing natural gas power plants to 75 percent would reduce emissions by 11 percent.
• Making existing coal-fired power plants more efficient would reduce emissions by 2 percent.
• Increasing the practice of combined heat and power at factories and similar facilities not only would mean 25 percent more energy, but also would cut emissions by 4 percent.
• Accelerating its use of renewable energy, which would reduce emissions by 9 percent.
• Achieving annual energy savings of 1 percent through other energy efficiencies would cut emissions by 10 percent.
Energy conservation isn’t new to Tennessee. The state has reduced its reliance on coal-fired energy generation by 40 percent since 2005. The Tennessee Valley Authority plans to close two such generators by 2017, marking another 23 percent reduction in coal use, and is considering whether to scrap a third. Fully 14 percent of the state’s electricity is now generated by renewable fuels, WRI says.
“Improving renewable energy production and energy efficiency programs in Tennessee would be a win-win,” Obeiter said, referring not only to the energy savings, but the boost they’ll give to the state’s economy. “Measures that reduce emissions can also create jobs, raise demand for in-state manufacturing, and lower consumers’ annual electric bills in the future.”
By Andy Tully of Oilprice.com
Andy Tully is a veteran news reporter who is now the news editor for Oilprice.com