With the severe winter of 2014 as a backdrop, there have been questions about the future affordability and reliability of electricity. But what’s so often missing from this discussion is the reality that technological and economic transitions in the power sector are modernizing our nation’s electricity system. The result? Clean, affordable energy for generations to come.
As part of this change-over, older coal-burning plants are already being phased out. Some people still wonder whether EPA is to blame for these closures. But the reality is that power plant retirements are business decisions to move away from investing in aging facilities, many of which are more than 50 years old, do not control pollution, and are almost never run anywhere near full capacity. Other factors like low natural gas prices relative to other fuels and slow growth in demand for electricity also contribute to these market-driven business decisions.
We have seen significant progress in the power sector — all while keeping our businesses and homes powered up and our economy growing. For example, new and improved technologies — including more efficient and responsive natural gas plants, lower renewable energy costs, energy efficiency advances, and smart grid growth — are creating innovative ways to generate, transmit, and use electricity.
The good news is that these choices should enhance utilities’ opportunity to provide their consumers with reliable and affordable electricity, all while cutting dangerous air pollution to protect Americans’ health and meet EPA standards. So will power plants be able to meet the demands of the future in an affordable way? We think so.
Joe Goffman has been Senior Counsel to the Assistant Administrator for Air and Radiation at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency since 2009. During his tenure, he has worked on the Tailoring Rule, the Transport Rule, and related climate change and air quality rules. Previously, Mr. Goffman served as Majority Senior Counsel to the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW), focusing on climate change, clean air and energy issues. He has held senior legal, policy and management positions at the Environmental Defense Fund, and, during earlier stints on the Senate EPW Committee and at EPA, he played a key role in developing and drafting the landmark Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 and the implementing rules, which established, among other things, the first U.S. “cap and trade” program for air pollution. Mr. Goffman received his J.D. from Yale Law School and graduated from Yale College. He and his wife live in Washington, DC; the couple has three children.