How will the Clean Power Plan affect you?

The final rule of the Clean Power Plan was released in August of 2015. ABB's resident expert outlines what plant owners need to know.

What were the major outcomes of the Clean Power Plan released in August 2015?
There were four significant changes to the final rule released versus the draft that was released in June 2014.

First, the time frame for the start of compliance was pushed out 2 years to 2022. The delay in the start of the compliance period was in response to many state entities and industry complaints that the draft rule timeline was not achievable.

Second, coal heavy generation states were originally given relatively modest compliance targets in the draft rule. However, the compliance targets are much more rigorous in the final rule.

Third, building block four (end use energy efficiency) was eliminated from the calculation of best system of emission reductions (BSER).

Finally, EPA built in an incentive for the addition of renewables to the grid in the time period between 2020 and 2022. The incentive for renewables has been widely seen as a way for EPA to moderate the “dash to gas” that was set up in the draft rule.

What will power facility owners need to do to reduce emissions and meet the new regulations?

In alignment with the draft rule, the EPA extends a broad range of options to facility owners and states to achieve compliance with the rule. It is important to note that the EPA does not prescribe a compliance plan. Instead, they provide guidance through the establishment of 3 building blocks:

Building block 1 – Heat Rate Improvement. Energy efficiency inside the walls of a power generation facility.

Building block 2 – Generation source substitution. Dispatching lower emitting generation sources like natural gas fired generators ahead of higher emitting sources like coal.

Building block 3 – Renewable substitution. Substituting zero emitting sources of generation for coal generation.

Individual utilities and states have the option to implement all or none of these strategies. Currently, the path of least resistance seems to be increasing generation and generating capacity from natural gas fired sources, all while drastically curtailing or retiring coal-fired plants.

As power generation facilities make upgrades or build new generation plants, what new technologies should they be taking advantage of to get the most out of their new assets?

From ABB’s perspective, the number one item owners should be considering for a new generation facility is the integration of automation and electrical systems in their new plant.

Power generating facilities are not exempt from the transformation of operating practices that are being driven by the internet of things. Today, the automation and electrical systems are connected in ways that were unimaginable even 10 years ago. That connectivity is driving productivity. Building knowledge and expertise into the system improves diagnostics, as well as our understanding of real-time asset health. For years, the industry has treated the electrical distribution system separately from the automation system. Despite the success of this approach, it still misses an enormous opportunity to exploit the state of the art in technology. Remember the days when we needed eight devices (office phone, mobile phone, calculator, GPS, PDA, laptop for internet, television, radio)? Consolidating all those functions into a single device is an example of integration that is intuitively understandable as a driver of productivity. Integration of automation and electrical systems in a power plant is an idea that is along the same line of thinking.


Learn more about ABB’s Clean Air initiative at

Image credit to Roland Peschetz on Flickr.

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About the author

Rodney Durban

I’m the North American lead for the Clean Air segment. Recent Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations have established major air quality compliance deadlines for the power industry starting in 2015. As a 20-year industry veteran, I see a lot of opportunity for ABB to play in this space. I look forward to leading ABB through this window of opportunity.
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