By Shannon Baker-Branstetter, Consumers Union
Today, a panel of judges with the federal district in Washington D.C., gather to hear new arguments about the White House’s controversial Clean Power Plan. The plan, which aims to reduce pollution from power plants and expand the use of clean, renewable energy, has been placed on hold by the Supreme Court as attorneys general in 27 states across the country challenge the merits of the rule.
In the midst of the political and legal challenges, the program’s true impact on consumers often gets lost: the Clean Power Plan can deliver critical benefits to consumers across the nation, including lower electricity bills and cleaner air.
The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, which analyzed state renewable energy standards over the past decade, found that 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.
By implementing the Clean Power Plan, states across the country can build on these programs and accelerate savings for consumers.
A recent study from the Georgia Institute of Technology found that states could implement the Clean Power Plan in a way that would save the average household over $160 a year on electricity bills by 2030 and which could save a total of $1,868 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 local communities.
Low- and fixed-income households, who often pay a disproportionate share of their income on energy, can be further helped by the Clean Energy Incentive Program (CEIP) – a major element of the Clean Power Plan that provides additional resources to lower their electricity bills, like expanded energy efficiency programs.
Earlier this month, PJM Interconnection, one of the largest electricity grid operators in the U.S., took an in-depth look at how the utility could meet the plan’s goals. Their conclusion? In every compliance scenario, meeting the goals of the CPP will actually increase grid efficiency, maintain reliability, and have a very modest effect on prices.
So the plan can be implemented in an reliable, low-cost manner and is expected to result in significant savings for consumers. But do consumers support the plan? It turns out the answer is yes.
A new survey released this month, suggests that majorities of Americans, including in states engaged in legal challenges to the plan, are actually in favor of the plan’s goals. The survey, conducted by the University of Maryland School of Public Policy along with the nonprofit group, Voice of the People, finds nearly 70% of Americans favor the Clean Power Plan. Among states that are challenging the law, two-thirds (67%), support the plan. And if the plan includes support for coal miners and surround communities, support for the plan increases to a bipartisan majority, rising to 68 percent among Republicans, 80 percent among Democrats, and 73 percent overall.
Consumers Union believes that the Clean Power Plan will have a positive impact on the lives of residents nationwide, if states move forward with consumer-friendly programs. 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.