Research areas: Center for Energy Regulation and Policy Analysis over research samples

CERPA currently is conducting research on topics such as the following.

H.B. 0200 Analysis

Project Overview: In its 2020 session, the Wyoming Legislature enacted, and Wyoming Governor Gordon thereafter signed into law, House Bill 0200 regarding “Reliable and Dispatchable Low-Carbon Energy Standards.” HB 0200 puts Wyoming in the vanguard of carbon capture, utilization & storage (CCUS) standards for electricity generation in the United States. CERPA published an initial review of the bill here:

In the context of the Wyoming Carbon Storage Assurance Facility Enterprise (CarbonSAFE) effort, and with funding from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) under Phase 3 of the CarbonSAFE program, this project will assess how the new law may impact coal-fired power plants in the State, including those subject to Rocky Mountain Power’s (RMP) recently finalized 2019 Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), which in turn is under review by the Wyoming Public Service Commission (PSC).

Interdisciplinary Policy Analysis of Regional Deployment of CCUS

Project Overview:  SER was recently awarded additional funds under the Plains CO2 Reduction Partnership (PCOR) which is led by the Energy & Environmental Research Center (EERC) at the University of North Dakota. CERPA will support PCOR via CCUS-related policy analyses under the grant, including issues related to a regional carbon dioxide pipeline network.

Case Study of Coal Plant Retirement Policies

Project Overview: The State of Wyoming, via recent legislative enactments, has adopted a de facto policy regarding coal plant retirements. Namely, before a coal plant can be retired, a utility has to conduct a bona fide sales process; and under HB 0200 (discussed above), the utility has to show compliance with that new low-carbon standard.

This paper will compare how other states in the region – Colorado, Montana, New Mexico and Wyoming -- are implementing coal retirement policies, then make recommendations regarding how Wyoming law might be revised to reflect best practices, assessed in terms of economic benefits to the State.

Economic Potential of Wyoming’s Resources

Project Overview: Wyoming possesses abundant resources that are currently primarily used in energy systems – coal, oil & natural gas, uranium, renewables. Those resources may hold economic potential in the future in a variety of ways, from future energy systems to potential non-energy utilizations in a variety of markets.

With respect to future energy systems, for example, rare earth elements (REE’s) and critical minerals (CM’s) are critical components of a wide variety of economically important equipment, including a variety of renewable energy systems. Thus, REE’s are an intriguing resource-related bridge to a low-carbon/renewable economy for Wyoming. This topic also has long-standing, sustained interested by the Wyoming Legislature. Domestic sources of REE’s and CM’s remain a priority topic of federal funding from both DOE and DOD. That interest is likely to be sustained in the years ahead, and may even expand. So under all scenarios, this topic is a target of opportunity for research funding at SER.

CERPA and CEGR are already collaborating on the topic of REE’s/CM’s. In conjunction with the Colorado School of Mines, CEGR/CERPA have recently submitted a study to Renewable and Sustainable Energy Review; a potential back-up publisher is the International Journal of Coal Geology. CEGR/CERPA also has prepared a draft outline for a workshop on this topic. CEGR has deep expertise on the identification and characterization of REE’s in Wyoming coals and coal byproducts.

Expanded uses of Wyoming-based uranium in advanced nuclear systems may provide another economically based resource-based pathway for Wyoming, too.

With respect to non-energy utilizations, coal and coal byproducts hold potential for non-Btu uses. SER’s carbon engineering program has been exploring this potential from an applied R&D potential for several years. REE’s and CM’s also may hold potential in non-energy markets (e.g., military systems).

Assessing all of these issues will require a deep appreciation of federal and state policy, too. Such policy at minimum will influence, if not dictate, whether and the extent to which such resources may be assessed and produced from federal lands. It is currently unclear, for example, whether REE’s may be leased from federal lands that are currently used for the production of coal.

State Low-Carbon Policies Impacting Exports of Wyoming Energy

Project Overview: The State’s revenues and much of its economic activities are based upon energy (both primary and that produced here, such as electricity), most of which is exported to consumers in other states. Wyoming’s energy and fuels are largely commodities, which means the State is a “price taker” – i.e., it is subject to fluctuations in international, national and regional energy markets. A growing number of states that receive Wyoming energy, moreover, are in the midst of adopting mid-century or earlier net negative GHG emission reduction goals or targets. Those policies are effectively pressuring Wyoming’s fossil fuels to decarbonize while, in theory, creating more opportunities for Wyoming’s renewable energy resources.

This analysis will assess the low-carbon policies in Wyoming’s export markets.

Advancing the Technology Learning Curve: An Economic Analysis of the Impact to Wyoming of Amended Section 48A

Project Overview: The section 48A tax credit program has approximately $2B in available funds to facilitate the retrofitting of CO2 capture technology at power plants. Unfortunately, the current credit is effectively unusable due to heat-rate language. Legislation is pending (H.R. 1796 and S. 407) to accomplish the needed technical fixes.

Implementation of amended Section 48A might result in the development and deployment of CCUS at approximately six more coal-fired power plants. If MHI’s amine-based technology was deployed in all such instances, the learning curve for CCUS might be materially advanced.

Energy Transitions in Wyoming: Obstacles and Opportunities

Project Overview: Wyoming faces unique challenges related to both secular and cyclical downturn in fossil fuel development activity. Declining commodity prices, coal mine and plant closures, and the growing momentum of renewable energy sources, especially wind, have left communities vulnerable to unemployment risk, declining local economies, and reduced revenue streams with impacts felt across the state.

Given these challenges, this project proposes to examine obstacles and opportunities in Wyoming for the implementation of a just and equitable energy transition - a managed shift toward a low-carbon energy system that prioritizes economic diversification; secure, family sustaining-jobs; and healthy communities. Areas of consideration include policy implementation, economic diversification, and the social and cultural dynamics of energy transitions. The goal of this project is to produce a study, share recommendations with stakeholders (community, industry, and government), and outline an agenda for future energy transition research within CERPA.  

Power Wyoming

Project Overview: In 2019, Governor Gordon launched the “Power Wyoming” initiative to assess how changes in energy markets – driven by economics and policy – would impact the State of Wyoming’s budget in the years ahead. It was envisioned that the initiative ultimately would inform a broader suite of issues for the State, including economic diversification, community impacts and the energy transition. The initiative’s work continues.

“Power Wyoming” is staffed with key Wyoming policymakers in the executive and legislative branches, with CERPA playing a key role. CERPA Director Kipp Coddington and Deputy Director Rob Godby lead the initiative’s policy and economic working groups, respectively.

This project will continue to fulfill CERPA’s obligations to Power Wyoming.

New Federal Energy Policies in 2021

Project Overview: In the event there is a change in federal leadership later this year regarding the Presidency and U.S. Senate in particular, it is likely that new energy policies will be put in place as early as February 2021 including, for example: (1) a ban on new oil & gas leases on federal lands; (2) re-institution of “social cost of carbon” metrics on all energy production on federal lands, including coal; (3) more stringent GHG emission standards for fossil energy production and utilization; and (4) a new energy bill that could impose a national decarbonization standard.

The project will assess from an energy policy perspective how a shift in federal policy in a few short months could impact Wyoming.