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Schwarzenegger clause

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California's SB 1368, enacted in 2006, required state regulators to "establish a greenhouse gases emission performance standard for all baseload generation of local publicly owned electric utilities at a rate of emissions of greenhouse gases that is no higher than the rate of emissions of greenhouse gases for combined-cycle natural gas baseload generation."[1]

In 2007, State Senate President pro Tem Don Perata, the sponsor of the legislation, told the U.S. Congress:[2]

California enacted SB 1368 to send a strong signal to the western energy markets. Our energy must be clean – we won’t buy power from coal plants spewing greenhouse gases by the ton. To be clear, California has not said "no" to coal; rather, we’ve said that we want cleaner coal plants that can provide us energy without producing massive global warming pollution.
To be clear, California has not said "no" to coal; rather, we’ve said that we want cleaner coal plants that can provide us energy without producing massive global warming pollution.

As a result of SB 1368, California regulators limited new coal-fired power plants to an output of 1,100 lbs of CO2 per megawatt hour (MWh). Expressed in metric measures, this is 500 kg CO2/MWh (i.e. 500 kilograms of carbon dioxide per Megawatt hour).[1]

As other jurisdictions moved to adopt the 1,100 lb CO2/MWh standard or the equivalent 500 kg CO2/MWh standard, it became known as the "Schwarzenegger clause."[3]

Adoption by Washington and Maine

Arnold hummer.jpg

In addition to California, two other states have adopted the standard:

Action by the European Parliament's Environment Committee

In October 2008, the European Parliament's Environment Committee voted to support the 500 kg CO2/MWh standard for all new coal plants built in the EU after 2015. The standard applies to all plants with a capacity over 300MW. The Committee also adopted an amendment to support the financing of 12 large-scale commercial CCS demonstration projects, at a cost that could exceed €10 billion.[7][8]

However, in November 2008, the proposal to subsize the CCS demonstration plants appeared to be headed for defeat. Several European countries have voiced opposition to the plan, including Spain, Germany, France, Denmark, Hungary, and Poland. Among the objections to the proposal include concerns that it puts too much investment in experimental carbon capture and not enough incentives for proven technologies like solar power and hybrid cars. European nations with the largest populations, including Spain and Germany, have extra votes and could force the research plan to be omitted from the larger EU climate and energy legislation. If the subsidy plan fails to pass, the pilot projects may not be able to secure financing.[9][10]


How California regulators settled on the standard

According to a California Energy Commission white paper, the 1,100 lb/MWh (or 500 kg CO2/MWh) figure was selected from a wider range of staff recommendations:[1]

The CPUC staff proposed 1,100 pounds carbon dioxide per megawatt-hour as an Interim Emissions Performance Standard in its October 2, 2006 Final Workshop Report. The standard was selected from proposals ranging from 800 to 1,400 lbs CO2/MWh, and the earlier Revised Staff Report’s recommendation of 1,000 lbs CO2/MWh (0.46 metric tons CO2/MWh). The CPUC staff proposed EPS’s of 1,000 or 1,100 lbs CO2/MWhr (0.50 metric tons CO2/MWh) appear to be a compromise between the 800 lbs CO2/MWhr that the most efficient modern combustion turbine combined cycle plant could achieve, and the 1,400 lbs CO2/MWhr that might envelope the majority of natural gas burning technologies (e.g., steam cycle boiler, simple cycle combustion turbine, reciprocating engine, and a range of combustion turbine combined cycle units).

A 32% - 51% reduction in carbon dioxide

Compared to new coal plants without carbon capture, the "Schwarzenegger clause" provides for capture rates ranging from 32% to 51% (see Table 1). This is much less than the level of capture deemed feasible by the MIT "Future of Coal" report, which evaluated reductions of 90%.[11]

California Senate President pro tem Don Perata, who led the creation of SB 1368, said, "California enacted SB 1368 to send a strong signal to the western energy markets. Our energy must be clean – we won’t buy power from coal plants spewing greenhouse gases by the ton."[12]

Contrary to Perata's assertion, SB 1368 still allows carbon dioxide to be emitted in large amounts.

Table 1: Comparison of CO2 emission rates for various coal generating technologies with and without carbon capture technology, for plants meeting the "Schwartzenegger clause" standard.[13]

Generating technology Emissions without carbon capture (kg CO2/MWh) Emissions with carbon capture (kg CO2/MWh) Percentage reduction resulting from "Schwartzenegger clause"
Subcritical pulverized coal 931 500 46%
Supercritical pulverized coal 830 500 40%
Ultra-supercritical pulverized coal 738 500 32%
Subcritical circulating fluidized bed 1030 500 51%
Integrated gasification combined cycle 832 500 40%

Comparing Schwarzenegger clause to standards in federal climate bills

The carbon-dioxide emissions standards in proposed federal climate bills vary as follows:[14]

  • S.1168, Section 101 (Alexander-Lieberman; Clean Air/Climate Change Act of 2007): 1100 lb CO2/MWh (applying after 2015)
  • S. 1177, Section 6 (Carper; Clean Air Planning Act of 2007): 1100 lb CO2/MWh (applying 2015-2025)
  • Clean Coal Act of 2007 (S. 1227; Kerry): 285 lb CO2/MWh
  • Second phase of S.1177 (Carper; Clean Air Planning Act of 2007): 285 lb CO2/MWh.
  • S.309, Section 708 (Sanders-Boxer; Global Warming Pollution Reduction Act of 2007): Requires coal plant operators to obtain an increasing percentage of their power from plants that meet a standard of 250 lb CO2/MWh.
  • S.1201, S.711 (Sanders-Lieberman; Clean Power Act of 2007): 285 lb CO2/MWh

Greenhouse Gas Limits in 2007 Energy Act

On January 30, 2008, Representative Henry Waxman, Chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and Tom Davis, Ranking Minority Member of the committee, wrote to Defense Secretary Robert Gates, requesting information on how the Department of Defense's plans for coal-based synfuels would comply with new greenhouse gas limits imposed on federal agencies by the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007.[15]

According to Section 526 of the law:

No Federal agency shall enter into a contract for procurement of an alternative or synthetic fuel, including a fuel produced from nonconventional petroleum sources, for any mobility-related use, other than for research or testing, unless the contract specifies that the lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions associated with the production and combustion of the fuel supplied under the contract must, on an ongoing basis, be less than or equal to such emissions from the equivalent conventional fuel produced from conventional petroleum sources.

Calls for a Stricter Standard

Union of Concerned Scientists

The Union of Concerned Scientists has proposed the following standard, which would match the Schwarzenegger clause through 2013, then implement a standard of 80-90 percent:[16]

  • Enact a CO2 performance standard that requires plants commencing construction between now and 2013 to add CCS to their full emissions stream and achieve a CO2 emissions rate of 1,100 lb CO2/MWh or lower.
  • Enact a stricter standard that requires plants commencing construction after 2013 to meet an emissions limit that reflects maximum achievable capture rates (currently estimated to be 80 to 90 percent on a MWh basis).

Policy Exchange

Ben Caldecott and Thomas Sweetman of the U.K. thinktank Policy Exchange propose that the carbon emissions standard for new plants be set at a tighter initial level (350 kg CO2/MWh), dropping further 2015 to 170 kg CO2/MWh. Existing plants would have to be retrofitted to meet the same standard, beginning in 2020:

First, as part of the EU climate and energy package, member states should introduce a rule that all new fossil fuel power plants built after 1 January 2009, must have average annual emissions of 350 kg CO2/MWh. This would eliminate new-build coal without CCS, but still permit new-build gas (which is far cleaner than coal), to avoid power shortages. Developing new coal plants with CCS is still feasible within this emission limit. Second, the emission performance standard becomes ever stricter for new plants. This is for two reasons, first, to bring gas into the CCS requirement. This standard could be introduced from 2015, and be 170 kg CO2/MWh, which permits efficient coal wiht CCS. A separate standard of 70 kg CO2/MWh could be considered for gas plants, to maximise the benefits of decarbonisation. Bringing in gas by 2015 also ensures that companies cannot just rely on building gas plants to escape developing CCS. We thus avoid the prospect of a second dash-for-gas and ensure investment in clean coal. Third, older existing plants are brought into the system, by CCS retrofitting. This can share the same standard of 170 kg CO2/MWh for coal, and potentially 70 kg CO2/MWh on gas, for the same reasons outlined above. We propose 2020 as the date that existing plants must become retrofitted with CCS.[17]



  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Implementation of SB 1368 Emission Performance Standard, Gary Collord, California Energy Commission, November 2006
  2. Perata's Testimony Before Congress on Global Warming, March 1, 2007
  3. Ted Nace, "Schwarzenegger's folly?" Gristmill, 10/16/08
  4. Christina Russell, “Wallula Coal Plant Proposal Controversial Among Students, Faculty,” Whitman College Pioneer, 11/15/07
  5. "2008 Legislative Report Card," Natural Resources Council of Maine, accessed 10/08
  6. Ted Nace, "Blocking Ferrari-Ready Driveways," Gristmill, 4/16/08
  7. "EU vote makes CCS ‘mandatory’ for coal power plants," Carbon Capture Journal, October 8, 2008. (Subscription required.)
  8. "Equipping power plants to store CO2 underground," European Parliament press release, October 7, 2008.
  9. "Europe's $14 Billion Clean-Coal Plan Lacking Backers," Bloomberg, November 18, 2008.
  10. "France proposes reduced funding for CO2 capture," Guardian, November 14, 2008.
  11. "The Future of Coal," MIT, 2007, Tables 3.1 and 3.5
  12. Perata testimony before Congress on Global Warming, California Progress Report, March 1, 2007
  13. Emissions rates from "The Future of Coal," MIT, 2007, Tables 3.1 and 3.5
  14. "Coal Power in A Warming World," Union of Concerned Scientists, October 2008, p. 29 and footnotes 1212 and 122
  15. Letter from Henry Waxman and Tom Davis to Robert Gates, January 30, 2008 (PDF file)
  16. "Coal Power in A Warming World," Union of Concerned Scientists, October 2008, p. 29
  17. Ben Caldecott and Thomas Sweetman, "A last chance for coal: Making carbon capture and storage a reality," Freen Alliance, August 2008

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