By: Shannon Baker-Branstetter, policy counsel for Consumers Union, the policy and advocacy division of Consumer Reports.
There’s been a lot of political maneuvering and debate in Pennsylvania about the Clean Power Plan, which aims to reduce pollution from power plants and expand the use of clean, renewable energy.
Amid all of the talk, the program’s true impact on consumers often gets lost: the Clean Power Plan can deliver critical benefits to consumers in the Keystone State, including lower electricity bills and cleaner air, if the state is committed to developing a strong plan.
The Clean Power Plan sets state-specific goals to lower nationwide greenhouse-gas pollution from power plants by about a third by 2030. States are given the flexibility to develop their own tailored plans to determine how to achieve their specific pollution-reduction goals. Energy efficiency improvements and clean, renewable energy solutions are a major way states can achieve their goals while achieving cost-savings for consumers, low-income households, and other electricity ratepayers.
The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, which analyzed state renewable energy standards over the past decade, found these programs saved consumers over $1.2 billion on their electricity bills. Indeed, utilities in states as diverse as Texas, Iowa and Michigan have reported that generating power through renewable sources like solar and wind is more affordable than traditional power sources. In Pennsylvania, energy efficiency programs like those implemented by Act 129, have helped rate-payers save $750 million in electricity costs over the past 8 years.
By implementing a state plan for Clean Power Plan compliance, Pennsylvania and states across the country can build on these programs and accelerate savings for consumers.
A new study from the Georgia Institute of Technology found Pennsylvania could implement the Clean Power Plan in a way that saves the average Pennsylvania household over $99 a year on electricity bills by 2030 and could save a total of $1880 over the next 15 years. These savings would mean more money for consumers to spend on essentials, like food, housing and healthcare –and help boost further economic activity in Pennsylvania.
Some opponents claim that the Clean Power Plan burdens low-income communities — but these objections are misplaced. The Clean Power Plan emphasizes that residents in low-income households or households with fixed-incomes should have access to resources to lower their electricity bills. The recently announced Clean Energy Incentive Program (CEIP) — a major element of the Clean Power Plan— explicitly requires that benefits from the Clean Power Plan reach these residents. Low income households pay a disproportionate share of their income on energy, so the energy efficiency programs funded by CEIP will have a direct benefit in lowering energy bills for these families.
The American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy calculated that this CEIP could represent $1.2 billion worth of investment in projects in low-income communities, in the form of weatherization projects to help lower utility bills and for energy efficiency and renewable energy jobs for residents in these communities. It’s up to each state to make sure they take full advantage of this program and its direct benefits to consumers.
Consumers Union believes the Clean Power Plan will have a positive impact on the lives of residents in Pennsylvania and across the country. We have joined other consumer advocates to defend the plan in the courts and will continue to push states to implement these important programs in an affordable and equitable manner.
More clean energy is in our future, and states will play a pivotal role in crafting plans to get us there. With a little foresight and effective planning, the Clean Power Plan has the ability to significantly reduce harmful pollution from power plants while lowering utility costs for consumers across the country.