How will the EPA’s Clean Air Plan Affect Your Budget

Published: June 17, 2014

As a home or business owner, the future cost and availability of electricity is undoubtedly a main concern for you. Prices have certainly been volatile for some time. Add to this the much argued financial costs associated with protecting the environment hitting the news and we’ve all got the jitters about the long term effects on our pocket books!

That’s why, unsurprisingly, when the EPA issued their latest round of proposed carbon emission restrictions on June 2 in the form of a 635 ‘Clean Power Plan’, a heated political and societal debate ensued. On the one hand you have the ‘winners’ of the plan – the environmentalists; the renewable energy producers from solar and wind (as utilities are forced to invest in carbon free electricity sources); any utilities with a low carbon fleet and, of course, you (who doesn’t want clean air and a healthy environment for their kids?!). Then there were the naysayers. The most prominent of which was Speaker of the house John Boehner, who reacted to the news by saying “The President’s plan would indeed cause a surge in electricity bills – costs stand to go up $17 billion every year… and potentially put an average of 224,000 more people out of work every year.” Underpinning this argument is the concern that idle plants impact rates, leading to retirements and then the costs will get passed to the customers/ratepayers (or REP’s and ESCO’s, but that’s another blog friends). In a nutshell, those hit hardest will end up being ratepayers and uninformed customers in deregulated markets (which unfortunately happens to be seniors and low income families typically). Bottom line, these types of things end up driving up the cost of doing business overall. Some experts are citing figures as high as 50%.

The benefits to the environment will be enormous over time. The purpose of the plan is to cut harmful; carbon pollution from power plants, making them more efficient and less polluting.  As EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy put it, “By leveraging cleaner energy sources and cutting energy waste, this plan will clean the air we breathe while helping slow climate change so we can leave a safe and healthy future for our kids. We don’t have to choose between a healthy economy and a healthy environment–our action will sharpen America’s competitive edge, spur innovation, and create jobs.”  Additionally, by increasing the momentum for energy efficiency measures the proposal’s mandates should lead to lower energy consumption therefore enhance the reliability of the Grid.

Confusing isn’t it. Will it harm or help the economy? Is the Clean Power Plan a catalyst for the next energy crisis or is it a good move? Both sides seem to have convincing arguments. As these proposals are not due to take effect until mid-year 2015 and progress is not mandated until 2022, it may be too early to say and there are likely to be years of legal squabbling over this.

Forewarned is forearmed as they say. Either way, it makes sense to take steps now to use energy more responsibly and make the right buying decisions regarding your power and gas rates towards keeping them as low as possible. While none of us have a crystal ball and can predict the future, it seems a sure bet that prices look set to dramatically increase in the near future and for many other reasons besides where the “forward-strip” is.

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