Friday, August 05, 2016

Clean Energy Initiative Program Credits Sought for Low-Income Communities

The Environmental Protection Agency should require states to allocate at least half of all credits available under the proposed Clean Energy Incentive Program to projects in low-income communities
Advocates at an Aug. 3 hearing in Chicago also recommended the EPA adopt a flexible definition of “low-income community,” giving states and tribes wider opportunities to use the Clean Energy Incentive Program (CEIP) to address economic and demographic conditions within their control.

Environmental justice groups called on the EPA to develop rules emphasizing local control and local benefits for renewable projects receiving assistance. Such requirements, they said, would address the difficult legacy of environmental harm suffered disproportionately by Americans living in low-income and minority communities.

EPA will be accepting comments on the design features of the proposed incentive plan through Sept. 2.

Voluntary Measures Rewarded

The EPA's proposed Clean Energy Incentive Program (RIN:2060-AS84) rewards states with additional emissions allowances or emissions rate credits for early efforts to comply with the Clean Power Plan, which limits carbon dioxide emissions from the existing fleet of power plants. While the states are not required to participate, more than a dozen have called on the EPA to finalize the Clean Energy Incentive Program, permitting them to participate. The incentive program originally was designed to reward investments in wind and solar generation. In June, EPA adjusted the program by adding hydropower and geothermal generation to the criteria of projects eligible for emissions reductions credits.

Eligible projects would be granted two emissions credits for every megawatt-hour of electricity demand reduced through energy efficiency in low-income communities beginning Sept. 6, 2018, and one credit for each megawatt-hour of zero emissions generation for projects that begin commercial operation after Jan. 1, 2020. The EPA also would provide matching credits up to the equivalent of 300 million short tons of carbon dioxide emissions reductions to be distributed to states on a prorated basis.

Although the U.S. Supreme Court stayed implementation of the Clean Power Plan, pending judicial review. EPA believes it has legal authority to push forward on voluntary components of the plan, including the incentive program.  Community organizations and environmental justice groups are demanding changes to the incentive program to ensure that at least half the credits go to projects in low-income communities. (The Bureau of National Affairs, 8/3/2016)