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A 2008 Energy Department report found that getting 20 percent of the country’s power through cogeneration could slash carbon emissions by more than 800 million metric tons per year by 2030. In an executive order signed in August, President Barack Obama set a national goal of deploying 40 gigawatts of cogeneration capacity by the end of 2020.
As with efforts to lessen demand through efficiency improvements, the trick will be to ensure that utilities are held accountable for the pollution reductions they claim as a result of cogeneration, said Jennifer Kefer, senior program manager for industrial efficiency at David Gardiner and Associates.
Holmstead said the provision of the Clean Air Act that the EPA would invoke to set standards has only been used to his knowledge in regulating landfill emissions.
“This is not a part of the Clean Air Act that has been used a lot,” said Megan Ceronsky, an attorney with the Environmental Defense Fund.
That raises concerns that the lack of precedent could make whatever the EPA decides more vulnerable to legal challenge.
“The more creative they get, the more likely it is that it gets overturned in court,” Holmstead said.