Mitigating Natural Gas Use in the Electricity Sector: Renewable Energy, Energy Efficiency, and the Role of States in Implementing the Clean Power Plan

Center for American Progress / by Alison Cassady

Scientists agree that we need to move swiftly and aggressively to deploy clean energy technologies and make energy systems more efficient. In the United States, electric utilities are the largest source of carbon pollution. Therefore, the reduction of power-sector emissions needs to be a central component of any meaningful climate mitigation strategy. In June, the Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, released a landmark proposal to establish the first-ever carbon-pollution standards for the nation’s power plants. One of the plan’s central elements is increasing the use of lower-carbon natural gas combined cycle, or NGCC, units to generate some of the electricity now produced by higher-carbon coal-fired power plants. While natural gas burns cleaner than coal, it is still a fossil fuel that releases carbon pollution.

But states have the potential to do even more than the plan envisions. By acting decisively to implement ambitious renewable energy and energy-efficiency programs, states can help ensure that the United States does not overcommit to natural gas and do not need to wait for the EPA to finalize the Clean Power Plan to get started.

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