Numerous opportunities for compliance and cleaner air exist within current programs

MADISON — A historic moment draws near as EPA prepares to unveil the first-ever standards to curb carbon pollution from power plants, which are currently the source of 40 percent of American carbon emissions. EPA’s carbon limits represent a major step forward for cleaner air, and a major step that Wisconsin has potential to make in stride.

“We have made a number of good decisions over the years that help reduce carbon pollution in Wisconsin, and there is no better time to embrace our best practices to achieve even greater results,” said Keith Reopelle, senior policy director for Clean Wisconsin. “It’s not just about complying with an EPA standard, but supporting our health, economy and quality of life with cleaner air.”

Extending the lifespan and reach of current clean energy policies and using existing infrastructure more efficiently could cut Wisconsin’s carbon dioxide emissions by as much as 43 percent below 2011 levels by the year 2020, according to analysis by World Resources Institute (WRI), a global sustainability research organization. Numerous opportunities for Wisconsin to cost-effectively reduce its emissions were found in their recent study.

“Wisconsin is already taking major strides to curb carbon pollution which make it well-placed to handle even ambitious federal standards for power plants,” said Rebecca Gasper, research analyst with World Resources Institute. “Our analysis shows that significant additional carbon reductions – by promoting clean energy and energy efficiency – are not only achievable in Wisconsin but can save money.”

According to WRI’s analysis:

  • An 11-percent reduction is possible with greater use of combined heat and power systems that use waste heat to generate electricity at sites like universities, hospitals and paper mills.
  • A 9-percent reduction is possible by continued investment in Focus on Energy, the state’s renewable energy and energy efficiency program.
  • A 6-percent reduction is possible by continuing to achieve annual 1-percent increases for renewable energy generation after meeting the 10 percent by 2015 Wisconsin Renewable Portfolio Standard.
  • An additional 9 percent could be gained by increasing output at currently operating natural gas plants. The analysis found that many plants are currently run well below capacity. Increasing coal plant efficiency stands chance to cut another 1 percent.