A new report from Public Citizen’s Climate Program details how the EPA’s soon-to-be finalized standards on carbon pollution could lower Virginians’ power bills.
The strategy for achieving this benefit is simple: invest in cost-effective energy efficiency programs first.
You may be wondering why yet another document is necessary to make the obvious case for improving energy efficiency. After all, Virginia already has a state goal of reducing retail electricity 10 percent by 2020.
But Public Citizen’s report is so important now — just a few weeks ahead of the final Clean Power Plan’s release — because the EPA’s detractors continue to argue that the plan will be very costly for Virginians.
Ever since the EPA announced the proposal last summer, misconceptions and red herring arguments have circulated, some stranger and more exaggerated than others. At a committee meeting in Richmond, for example, an opponent of the plan made the mind-boggling claim that more premature deaths will potentially result from the standards than would be prevented.
Beyond baseless arguments about negative health impacts, opponents of the Clean Power Plan weave a tangled web when they attack the standards on the basis of rising energy costs.
As the report points out, rates are not what consumer advocates should be most concerned with in this case. Customers’ utility costs are determined by the price they pay per megawatt hour and their usage. According to the report, Virginians can expect to see electricity bills go down on average about $147 annually.
Before anyone decides how to spend that extra $147, note that that figure is likely conservative, and monthly savings for customers may be greater for a couple of reasons. First, that number was arrived at using the EPA’s estimates of what it costs to run programs that save energy, and the EPA indicates that those estimates are 60 to 100 percent higher than they should be given more recent studies that show energy efficiency can be done for much less.
Second, it doesn’t consider the cost of energy efficiency gains coming down as economies of scale are reached, treating efficiency instead as a tree from which fruit gets harder to collect once the low-hanging ones are already picked. So it is quite possible that customers will save much more through participating in efficiency programs, eliminating the need or desire by utilities to construct new natural gas and nuclear facilities.
An introductory summary as well as the full Public Citizen report are online. This Media Matters piece from last year breaks down the myths and the facts about the Clean Power Plan, which will be finalized next month.