6 trends that will shape electric power in 2016
Either the EPA or the groups opposing its Clean Power Plan will enjoy a victory early in 2016, but the CPP’s ultimate fate likely won’t be decided for two more years. The year also will see natural gas and coal continue their ascension and decline, respectively, in the pantheon of U.S. generation fuels.
Beyond that, 2016 looks to be the year that energy storage starts getting deployed widely; microgrids and community solar continue moving forward, albeit slowly and due mostly to government support; and electric vehicles remain stuck in neutral despite California’s embrace of them.
Here’s a closer look at the six areas expected to play a big role in shaping and reshaping the electric power utility business in 2016.
1. The CPP
Twenty-six states and numerous industry groups filed lawsuits against the CPP within days of the EPA publishing it in the Federal Register this past fall. Their lawsuits were consolidated into one case by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
In addition to suing to have the plan thrown out, some plaintiffs have filed motions to stay the EPA from implementing it while their lawsuits proceed. To grant those motions, the three-judge panel hearing the case must conclude that letting the EPA begin to implement the CPP would do the plaintiffs irreparable harm and that the plaintiffs have a good chance of prevailing in their lawsuits.
Response dates set by the court mean a decision on the stay motions could arrive early in 2016, although the court is not expected to rule on the full case until late next year or 2017. Assuming the losers appeal, the final ruling on the case might not come from the U.S. Supreme Court until 2018.
In Congress, U.S. Rep. Tom Marino, R-Pennsylvania, has sponsored a bill to reorganize the Clean Air Act in a way that an EPA counsel says would invalidate the CPP. Additionally, nearly half the Senate supports a resolution to nullify the CPP. Both the bill and resolution would likely require a Republican winning the 2016 presidential election to take effect.
The states fighting the CPP typically have Republican governors or attorneys general, or a prominent mining industry. Business groups fighting the plan include the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, the National Mining Association, the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers and the American Council for Clean Coal Electricity.
Most electric-power generators have either said they are studying the plan while moving to comply with it, or are actively supporting it.