About the Power Sector Opportunties Fact Sheet Series

This series of fact sheets aims to shed light on these opportunities by illustrating the CO₂ emissions-reduction potential from measures in a variety of states. For example, states could build off of existing initiatives like renewable portfolio standards, energy efficiency standards, and other policies as well as use tools like greater efficiency at coal plants, increased use of combined heat and power, and fuller utilization of unused capacity at natural gas plants. We show how emissions savings from these existing policies and infrastructure stack up against the reductions that could be required under forthcoming standards.


President Obama announced a national climate plan in June 2013, directing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to set carbon pollution standards for the power sector. Once EPA establishes those standards, states will implement their own plans for achieving those reductions.

In this fact sheet, WRI examines existing tools North Carolina can use to reduce power plant emissions and help meet future standards.

Executive Summary

According to new WRI analysis, in the near-term, North Carolina can meet and possibly exceed forthcoming emissions standards for existing power plants.[1] The state has a renewable energy and energy efficiency standard (REPS) in place, which has already achieved significant reductions in CO2 emissions from the power sector.

WRI analysis finds that North Carolina can reduce its CO2 emissions 29 percent below 2011 levels by 2020 using existing state policies and infrastructure opportunities. These reductions would meet or exceed relatively stringent EPA standards for existing power plants.

CO2 reduction opportunities using existing policies include:

  • Reductions from the REPS: North Carolina’s Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard requires 12.5 percent of the electricity sold by each utility to come from renewable energy sources by 2021.Utilities may meet up to 25 percent of these requirements through energy efficiency measures through 2020, and up to 40 percent starting in 2021. WRI analysis finds that by meeting the REPS through in-state renewable generation, North Carolina will reduce its CO2 emissions by 6 percent below 2011 levels in 2020.

CO2 reduction opportunities using available infrastructure include:

  • Increasing combined heat and power (CHP) capacity at commercial and industrial facilities. North Carolina has nearly 5 gigawatts of potential for new CHP (6.5 gigawatts including existing capacity) and is currently using about 24 percent of this potential. WRI analysis finds that achieving 25 percent of the remaining technical potential can help North Carolina meet requirements under the REPS program.

  • Fully utilizing existing combined cycle natural gas (NGCC) capacity. The operating capacity of North Carolina’s NGCC fleet was 38 percent in 2011. Increasing the operating capacity of all existing units to 75 percent would reduce the state’s reliance on coal. WRI analysis finds that by fully using existing combined cycle natural gas capacity, North Carolina can reduce its CO2emissions by 17 percent below 2011 levels in 2020.

  • Increasing the efficiency of existing coal-fired power plants. Existing coal plants’ efficiency can be improved through refurbishment and improved operation and maintenance practices, among other options.WRI analysis finds that by increasing efficiency in power plants, North Carolina can reduce its CO2emissions by 1 percent below 2011 levels by 2020.