Contractormag 3781 Government

Federal policy on greenhouse gases front and center

Nov. 13, 2015
Say what you will about President Obama’s two terms, but when it comes to environmental policies, the administration has been on the proactive side in energy efficient solutions and policy.
Say what you will about President Obama’s two terms, but when it comes to environmental policies, the administration has been on the proactive side in energy efficient solutions and policy.
Photo: iStock/ThinkStock.

In fact, back in August, President Obama and EPA announced the Clean Power Plan — a historic and important — yet debatable — step in reducing carbon pollution from power plants that takes real action on climate change. The EPA states that, shaped by years of unprecedented outreach and public engagement, the final Clean Power Plan is fair, flexible and designed to strengthen the fast-growing trend toward cleaner and lower-polluting American energy.

With strong but achievable standards for power plants, and customized goals for states to cut the carbon pollution that is driving climate change, the Clean Power Plan provides national consistency, accountability and a level playing field while reflecting each state’s energy mix. It also shows the world that the United States is committed to leading global efforts to address climate change.

The Clean Power Plan represents the first federal rules limiting the emission of carbon dioxide from existing power plants. The rule aims to reduce CO2 emissions 32 percent from 2005 levels by 2030 to stop what the Obama administration sees as dangerous, human-caused global warming.

It seems that with every government initiative, there is the potential for political blowback. 

“These regulations will cost billions of dollars and result in zero meaningful improvement to the environment," said Isaac Orr, Research Fellow, Energy and Environment Policy
The Heartland Institute. "One analysis, which uses EPA’s own climate models, found this rule would, at best, prevent 0.018 degrees Celsius in potential future warming by 2100—and this figure was so small, it was within the margin of error, meaning it could actually have the opposite effect.

“Make no mistake, Clean Power Plan mandates will raise electricity prices for low-income families, who already spend a disproportionately large amount of their income on energy, and saddle our nation’s economy with more expensive, growth-killing regulations, all for zero environmental benefit,” added Orr.

According to John M. Grau, CEO of the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA), “We are concerned that the carbon limits imposed on states could severely impact electricity production and force the closure of many coal-powered generators that now provide the vast bulk of America’s power. We are also examining the opportunities for states to increase the percentage of power they generate from alternative sources, like wind, solar, and industrial energy efficiency technologies, such as combined heat and power (CHP) and waste heat to power (WHP), to help states meet carbon-reduction goals.

“Federal rules governing how we provide power, light and communications to our nation should be done in a way does not cause significant, irreparable harm to our businesses, our employees, or the American taxpayers.”

Greenhouse gas emissions

And just last month, the White House held a roundtable discussion — energy officials from the Obama Administration and climate industry leaders such as Emerson Climate Technologies, AHRI, Johnson Controls, Danfoss and Daikin, to name a few — on reducing greenhouse gas emissions from hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), and other powerful greenhouse gases that can contribute to climate change. The White House event was hosted by Dr. Ernest Moniz, U.S. Secretary of Energy, and Gina McCarthy, the Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

During the event, AHRI president and CEO Stephen Yurek reported that the industry spent more than $255 million in 2015 toward a 10-year, $5 billion commitment in R&D and capital expenditures to develop and commercialize low-global warming potential (GWP) technologies, demonstrating the industry’s commitment to environmental stewardship.

He noted that the $5 billion pledge is in addition to the nearly $2 billion that was spent on such research in the previous five years. The yearly totals are expected to grow as spending moves from research into development and testing of equipment using the new refrigerants.

During the event, John Galyen, president, Danfoss North America, provided an update on the Codes and Standards Task Force that the company announced it would convene and facilitate during a similar industry roundtable at the White House in September 2014.

“The Task Force has already taken several steps,” Galyen explained. “We have launched a communications plan to educate industry on the need for revised standards and codes. We have worked with ASHRAE to keep its development of standards on track and have been active at the meetings of its refrigerant safety Standard 15 committee. We have actively engaged the model code groups to gain support in preparing codes, once the Standard is ready. And, we have established a sub-committee to work with states and municipalities. Acting together, the group has authored several articles and secured speaking engagements with influential audiences vital to support this transition.”

Galyen continued, “Future progress is highly dependent on ASHRAE Standard 15, which is delayed because additional testing and analytical work is needed. Some of that work is being done, but some still needs funding. Without the needed research, we risk missing the 3-year code cycle which can protract and complicate the conversion to low-GWP alternatives. Administration support at that critical moment could be decisive.”

Shinya Okada, senior executive officer of Daikin Industries Ltd., stated that “Daikin is committed to the future development and production of a full product line of HVAC systems that utilize environmentally beneficial technologies designed to have a positive impact on the environment. We are grateful that our efforts have been recognized by President Obama’s Administration, and we feel Daikin can contribute to the private sector leadership that is needed for global climate protection.”

Johnson Controls joined the roundtable discussion on actions toward a phase down of GWP refrigerants. In its first 12 months of a three-year commitment, Johnson Controls reaffirmed its $50 million investment to developing and expanding its existing low-GWP product portfolio.

Since last year, the company invested $15 million in research and development (R&D) of low-GWP refrigerants and component technology for scroll, screw and centrifugal compressor-based products.

Over the past decade, Johnson Controls’ industry-leading product innovations have reduced refrigerant charge in equipment by nearly 30 percent while improving efficiency over 40 percent, which has a major impact on reducing greenhouse gas. Other R&D focus areas have included efforts to reduce the potential for leaks, as well as improved maintenance practices and service training.

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