Will Energy Efficiency Go the Way of Obamacare?
I was recently on a panel on the politics and policy of energy efficiency in the Southeast. The EPA’s Clean Power Plan (CPP) was a major topic of discussion. I made the point that the roll out of the CPP has the potential to stymie new energy efficiency programs in the near term and increase the likelihood that recent energy efficiency programs are rolled back.
A good deal has been written about the CPP getting caught up in the national food fight that Washington has become. The possibility that the states will react to the CPP like they did to Obamacare is very real. An early letter from 9 governors, including the governors of Louisiana, Mississippi and North Carolina, calls on the President to rescind the CPP rule. Politico reported that a number of states adopted ALEC inspired, anti-EPA resolutions in advance of the CPP release and that ALEC is likely to introduce model CPP legislation after their Annual Meeting which concludes today. These actions, along with statements from regulators and elected officials in many southeastern states, suggest that CPP could go the way of Obamacare. Just as many states refused to implement state insurance exchanges, states could refuse to submit state plans to meet their carbon reduction goals. This is not a foregone conclusion, but states’ refusal to participate would have a long term impact on the implementation on the CPP.
If the CPP makes energy efficiency a hyper-political issue in the broader struggle between Obama and Republicans, which seems likely, it will have a more immediate effect. The Southeast has a deserved reputation for lagging the nation in terms of energy efficiency efforts. However, many southeastern states have made quiet progress on energy efficiency in recent years. Alabama, South Carolina and North Carolina have adopted new building energy codes. Mississippi has pursued broad energy efficiency efforts under Governor Bryant’s leadership. Regulators have approved new demand side management in states like Virginia, North Carolina and Georgia. If southeastern states come to view energy efficiency through a Washington lens, it will become very difficult to implement new energy efficiency programs and likely undo some of the progress the region has made on energy efficiency.