Report: Proposed EPA plan will save water, reduce air pollution in Texas

CNA Corporation today released a report finding that under EPA's proposed rule to cut carbon dioxide emissions from electric power plants, Texas' power sector could cut water consumption by 21 percent, while reducing conventional air pollutants 29 percent by 2029. The water savings are enough water to fill Cowboys Stadium 37 times every year. Moreover, CNA researchers found that Texas could meet these targets with modest effort and a small cost savings.

"It's a surprising finding," said Paul Faeth, director, Energy, Water, and Climate in CNA's Institute for Public Research and author of the report The Impacts of EPA's Clean Power Plan on Electricity Generation and Water Use in Texas. "People don't often associate water conservation with CO2 cuts, but for Texas, they work together."

Texas' existing coal, natural gas, and nuclear electricity-generating plants rely on considerable water resources for cooling operations, a reliance that also makes them vulnerable to low water flows and high water temperatures. This has been a problem for Texas in the past. The changes called for in EPA's Clean Power Plan -- greater energy efficiency, increased use of wind and other renewable energy, more generation from high-efficiency natural gas plants and less from coal-fired operations -- would all help during a drought.  

Energy efficiency avoids the need for new generating capacity, not only avoiding water use for cooling, but also avoiding CO2 emissions. It also has the advantage of being inexpensive compared to new generating capacity. Wind power does not use any water, while combined-cycle natural gas (NGCC) plants require about half as much water for cooling as coal plants using the same technology. 

Energy efficiency and wind have no CO2 emissions, and emissions from NGCC are half or less compared to coal. These options also eliminate or dramatically reduce air pollutants compared to coal. Nitrogen oxides, which cause smog, would be cut by 29 percent compared to 2012.

CNA Corp.'s report also found that because Texas has been switching from coal-fired plants to natural gas and continues to develop wind power, the state will make significant cuts in its CO2 emissions intensity even if the new EPA rule were not taken into account. In 2012, the state emitted 1,284 pounds of CO2 for every megawatt-hour of electricity produced. The CNA Corp. study finds that without any policy changes, by 2029 Texas would reduce that rate by 26 percent, 70 percent of the final target.  This would leave the state just 12 percentage points shy of the CCP's proposed 38 percent cut. Most of the remainder could be achieved through greater energy efficiency. The EPA does not prescribe how the CPP should be implemented.

"Texas is already cutting its carbon dioxide intensity due to natural gas production and wind development," Faeth said. "This will make it easier for the state to meet carbon dioxide targets in the power sector."

To view the PowerPoint presentation and other materials associated with the report, click here (


Editor's Note: This study was funded by the Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation

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