Issues & Policy
EEI member companies are providing the affordable, reliable, and resilient clean energy that powers our economy and our everyday lives. They are achieving significant emissions reductions in the electric power sector that will lead to cleaner air, transitioning to cleaner energy resources, and partnering on agreements to protect the environment.
Climate and Clean Air
Climate change presents one of the greatest energy and environmental policy challenges this country – and the world – has ever faced. EEI member companies are committed to being part of the solution to climate change and have undertaken many initiatives over the last 30 years to reduce, avoid, or sequester greenhouse gas emissions.
EEI member companies are leading the clean energy transformation. As they continue to transition their generating fleets to cleaner fuels, their emissions are going down significantly. Preliminary estimates suggest that as of year-end 2021, the electric power sector’s carbon emissions were 36 percent below 2005 levels. In addition, emissions from the electric power sector are no longer the leading source of the nation’s CO2 and have been lower than the emissions from the transportation sector since 2016.
This impressive trend is expected to continue, as many EEI member companies have announced voluntary commitments to further reduce their carbon emissions in the near- and long-term, many of which include reaching net-zero by 2050 or earlier. Visit Clean Energy and Climate Change to learn more.
U.S. Power Sector CO2 Emissions Are Declining
CO2 Emissions: Electric Power, Transportation, and Industrial Sectors
In addition to carbon dioxide emissions, EEI member companies have made significant progress on reducing other types of air emissions.
- Since 1990, the electric power industry has cut sulfur dioxide emissions by 94 percent and nitrogen oxides emissions by 88 percent.
- As a result of the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards and other Clean Air Act regulations, from 2010 to 2017, the electric power industry has reduced mercury emissions by 86 percent and total emissions of hazardous air pollutants by 96 percent. National total power sector mercury emissions have been reduced by 95 percent over the period 1990 to 2021 (from 59 to 3 tons per year).
Power Plant Emissions Decreasing Significantly
Electric companies will continue to achieve emissions reductions thanks in part to new environmental regulations, investments in carbon-free technologies, the use of cleaner fuels, and increased electricity generation from renewables. Wind, solar, hydro, and energy storage can get us much of the way to a carbon-free future. Using an energy mix that includes nuclear energy and natural gas will help us get there faster and more reliably.
Infrastructure Development and Deployment
In order to distribute electricity to millions of homes and businesses throughout the United States—from dense urban communities to vast rural areas—electric companies own and manage hundreds of thousands of acres of lands and the natural resources found on them. The electric power industry works in partnership with federal, state, and local agencies to ensure that we meet all applicable wildlife and land protection statutes and regulations.
Threatened and Endangered Species
Electric companies provide valuable habitats for plants and wildlife. In addition to complying with the Endangered Species Act (ESA), electric companies take special actions to protect threatened and endangered species and critical habitat on our lands, including Habitat Conservation Plans and other voluntary conservation measures available under the ESA.
EEI works closely with the Avian Power Line Interaction Committee (APLIC) to address a variety of avian/power line interactions including electrocutions, collisions, and nests. APLIC helps develop guidance documents identifying causes and minimization methods for avian electrocutions and collisions. APLIC hosts short courses and meetings each spring and fall throughout the U.S., and funds research related to avian/power line interactions and conservation. Please visit the APLIC website for additional resources.
Siting and Permitting
New electric transmission is needed for enhanced reliability, to serve regional markets, and to deliver electricity from renewable energy projects to highly populated communities. EEI is working on reforming siting and permitting processes to facilitate increased renewable energy deployment and the transmission needed to enhance grid resilience and meet our climate goals.
To avoid the interruptions in electricity service that overgrown or fallen vegetation can cause, electric companies use various methods to control or remove vegetation in a safe and environmentally conscious manner. These are called rights-of-way vegetation management programs. The goal of these programs is to provide safe transmission and distribution services and to minimize disruptions caused by trees and other vegetation, while maintaining a harmonious relationship with the environment. Properly maintained rights-of-way are essential to providing safety for energy workers and customers.
Water and Waste Management
Water is an essential component of electricity production. The production of electricity requires water for fuel processing, cooling, materials handling, combustion efficiency, and environmental control. Steam electric generation, including coal, oil, natural gas, and nuclear units require abundant, and predictable quantities of water for these purposes.
Cleaner energy sources such as hydroelectric, wind, and solar, also require water for power, manufacture, and maintenance. In addition, the infrastructure needed to connect these resources to customers will cross federal and state waters and may require general or individual permits administered under regulatory agencies and programs.
Clean Water Regulations
Federal regulatory rulemaking efforts such as the Steam Electric Effluent Limitation Guidelines, Clean Water Act Section 401 (water quality certifications), Nationwide Permits renewals and waters of the United States all have a direct impact on electric companies and the smooth transition to a cleaner energy economy.
EEI continues to work individually and with a broad cross-section of associations to educate federal regulatory agency leaders and staff as well as policymakers in the House and Senate and others about the electric power industry's perspective on these rules and associated initiatives.
Waste Management Regulations
EEI members are active in waste management issues. EEI is working with a coalition of several other power sector groups in filing a petition for rulemaking requesting that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency adopt a universal waste management standard for photovoltaic solar panels to support the transition to clean energy in a streamlined manner that would encourage environmentally sound collection and proper management of the waste within the management and recycling system.
EEI members also are active in coal ash management. Coal ash is a byproduct of burning coal to generate electricity. Coal ash is reused in products, including cement, concrete, wallboard, and roofing materials, or is stored in basins or landfills. In April 2015, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a national rule to regulate how coal ash is managed and stored. The rule lays out a prescriptive, phased process for the monitoring of groundwater near ash basins and landfills, identifying and reporting any concerns, and addressing any issues through corrective action. As the electric power industry continues to transition to a cleaner generation mix, many coal-based power plants are being retired. This means that coal ash disposal units near these power plants are no longer needed. Electric companies are beginning to close basins where coal ash is stored, in ways that put safety first, protect the environment, minimize impacts to the community, and manage costs for customers.
Carbon-Free Technology Initiative (CFTI)
EEI has joined with a number of environmental and technology-focused non-governmental organizations to launch the Carbon-Free Technology Initiative (CFTI), which is focused on implementation of federal policies that can help ensure the commercial availability of affordable, carbon-free, 24/7 power technology options by the early 2030s.
Many of the CFTI's policy recommendations address research and development, demonstration, deployment, and issues that have an impact on the cost or performance of a technology, such as siting and permitting. They outline the need for appropriations, authorizations, and tax and finance policies to advance these technologies.
EEI Issue Communities
The EEI Issue Communities provide members with an online forum to facilitate policy development, information exchange and networking. Members can communicate and share ideas, participate in discussion forums, send email blasts, create file libraries, organize conference calls, and keep track of important dates and upcoming events.