The role of legislative processes and electric utilities in effecting global environmental goals

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Virginia Tech

Electricity generation in the world is growing at a rapid rate. Growing at an equally proportional rate are the amounts of electric power plant-induced greenhouse gas and acid rain causing emissions which are being spewed into the air. Developed countries are to blame for most of the anthropogenic global warming gases which have already accumulated in the atmosphere. Developing countries, however, which are facing periods of large population and industrial growth, are predicted to produce the majority of electricity-generated-emissions in the foreseeable future, between 2000 and 2010. More and more power generation capacity will be necessary in these countries to facilitate the industrialization necessary to improve the standard of living of their citizens. While these countries are now planning for the infrastructure to accompany this growth, little attention is being given to the global environment and to the technologies which have become available to control power pJant emissions. This is due largely to the high capital costs of abatement technologies and unconventional power generation options, and to the lack of policy in these developing countries requiring that new generating capacity be GHGneutral as much as possible. Most developed countries have been able to set some guidelines for achievable levels of local and global emissions through such policies. Achievable limits, however, are bounded by many constraints, including the culture of a region, its political orientation, and its socio-economic status.

The author contends that given the proper political climate and flexibility, any country can attain some level of environmental-friendliness in its power generating capacity mix. In support of this claim, the author addresses some of the many variables included in controlling global emissions due to electric power generation through legislative processes. Policies in certain countries which have achieved some level of success with emissions control are studied. The unique nature of attempting to implement similar programs in developing countries is also discussed. Finally, the role electric utilities can play in achieving global environmental goals is examined. Software tools are included to assist utility planners, policymakers, and financial institutions with environmental analysis of power generation projects.

carbon dioxide, power plants, electricity, environment, policy, emissions