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Utilities back 'climate friendly' energy technologies

Edison Electric Institute, an industry association for electric utilities, backs specific targets on greenhouse gas emissions and names viable short-term technology fixes.

The industry association of U.S. electric utilities on Wednesday published what its members say are the most promising technologies for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The primary purpose of the paper, put out by the Edison Electric Institute (EEI), was to establish the industry's position on U.S. climate change legislation, which many people expect could be passed in the next few years.

In the Edison Electric Institute's "points of agreement," its members agreed on a target of reducing greenhouse gas concentrations by 80 percent compared to current levels by 2050.

To get to that long-term goal, the paper details what utilities believe are viable technologies in the near term. The EEI said it will back regulations that promote development of certain technologies. In the paper, the EEI said:

  • Efficiency and renewables are key to near-term reductions.
  • Maximizing new nuclear is key to mid-to-longer term reductions.
  • The aggressive development and deployment of carbon capture and storage coupled with advanced coal technologies are necessary to preserving the coal option.
  • Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) and electric vehicles (EVs) can make a major contribution to reducing net GHG emissions, as well as to reducing foreign oil dependence and consumer prices at the pump.
  • Other no and low-emitting carbon technologies should be pursued (e.g., smart grid).
  • Support key concepts underlying the Boucher CCS (carbon capture and storage) bill.

For a raft of clean-tech start-up companies, utilities are vitally important potentially customers for their products. But, with a few exceptions, utilities are notoriously conservative when it comes to adopting new technologies, such as smart-grid technology or storage.

Power generation accounts for 40 percent of U.S. carbon emissions, making them an influential negotiator in climate change regulations which are designed to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

According to the EIE paper, the group is open to a tax on carbon emissions but is currently focused on a cap and trade regime, where pollution allowances can be bought and sold, as is done now with the air pollutants that cause acid rain.

The groups also lobbied for how pollution allowances should be carved out once regulations are put in place.

Officials from the Obama administration have said that the U.S. intends to take worldwide leadership on climate change mitigation. A number of cap and trade regulations are already under consideration in Congress but they are not expected to be passed in Obama's first year in office.