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EPA Launches New Tool to Calculate Emissions Reductions from Clean Energy

EPA released its new ‘AVERT’ tool in February in recognition of the need for a more robust means of crediting energy efficiency and renewable energy in air regulation compliance plans. AVERT, which stands for AVoided Emissions and geneRation Tool, is meant to enable state air regulators and clean energy project and program implementers to estimate emissions reductions in nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, and carbon dioxide based on the timing of expected energy savings or renewable energy generation using recent data on power plant operations. It also provides details on when and where emission reductions are expected to occur. AVERT is free to download and can be run on most PC computers with a recent edition of Microsoft Excel.

Calculating emissions reductions attributable to energy efficiency and renewable energy programs has normally involved either 1) multiplying reduced energy use (or renewable energy generation) by a general emissions factor for a region (e.g. lbs. SO2/kWh, as has long been available from EPA’s eGRID data) or 2) using complex – and expensive – power sector modeling. AVERT now provides a standardized tool that falls between these two approaches, allowing users to estimate the emissions reductions due to specific projects or policies more accurately than simple average emissions rate multiplication, but more easily and cheaply than full power sector modeling.

For those designing state plans to meet the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) requirements under the Clean Air Act, AVERT offers a ready-made tool designed by EPA (who must approve the state plans).  AVERT quantifies the emissions reductions from efficiency and renewable energy projects, creating certainty, reducing overhead costs, and simplifying the process. Yet while AVERT has been designed to facilitate estimates of emissions reductions to meet NAAQS, this tool could also play an important role in estimating emissions reductions from clean energy technologies in the context of future greenhouse gas standards for existing power plants.

EPA’s proposed regulation is set for release this June, as called for in the President’s Climate Action Plan, with a final rule expected the following year. This proposed rule is expected to include guidance for states that may want to use flexible approaches to compliance, including how to demonstrate that these flexible approaches will achieve the required emissions reductions. To support states in allowing compliance via off-site clean energy projects that reduce emissions from the electric system, EPA should sanction the use of the AVERT tool for estimating power sector carbon emissions reductions from energy efficiency, renewable energy and combined heat and power.

For further resources, see EPA’s AVERT website.

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