Air Quality

Published on July 31st, 2015 | by Steve Hanley


Clean Power Plan = Lower Electricity Bills

July 31st, 2015 by  

Originally published on Solar Love.

A report from the University of Georgia says that states can reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by using a combination of renewable energy sources and energy-saving strategies. It says those changes are affordable if done properly.

University of  GeorgiaMarilyn Brown, the project’s lead researcher and the Brook Byers Professor of Sustainable Systems in the School of Public Policy at Georgia Tech tells Think Progress, “To minimize costs, the country needs to reduce its coal consumption more rapidly, continue to expand its gas-fired power plants, but temper this growth with aggressive policies to increase energy efficiency and renewable energy.”

Complying with the Clean Power Plan would also produce substantial collateral benefits such as lower electricity bills, greater GDP growth, and significant reductions in SO2, NOx, and mercury emissions. “The strong push on energy efficiency also enables GDP to rise above the business-as-usual forecast,” said Brown. “The US increases its exports and decreases its imports as a result of being more competitive.”

Another recent report by energy research firm Synapse Energy Economics finds that average energy bills in 2030 could be $35 per month lower under a “Clean Energy Future” scenario than they would be if the Clean Power Plan is not put into operation.

Both reports run counter to claims by utility advocates that the Clean Power Plan will cause electric bills to skyrocket. Fear mongering is a frequent tactic among so-called “think tanks” who think about what their powerful and well-heeled benefactors tell them to think about. In most cases, their conclusions are written before their studies even begin.

“As energy is used more efficiently, non-competitive power plants can be retired, construction of new coal plants can be deferred, and transmission and distribution infrastructure investments can be delayed, all of which would lower rates and therefore lower the energy bills of all consumers,” Marilyn Brown said. “This is a counter-intuitive finding to some who keep hearing from critics that have claimed that it will significantly increase the electricity bills of American families.”

For modeling purposes, the study’s researchers did detailed solar cost analysis and determined that, by 2030, installed costs of solar would be approximately $1.75/watt for utility-scale PV, $2/watt for commercial-scale PV, and $2.50/watt for residential-scale PV in 2010 dollars.

Cost of utility scale and residential solar

Other recent studies show that, although residential solar may cost more to install, its total cost is competitive with utility-scale installations because it eliminates fixed costs for building long-distance transmission lines, utility substations, and grid infrastructure. It also eliminates the significant line losses that plague electricity sent over long distances.

The University of Georgia report concludes with this statement: “Energy efficiency programs and policies need to be revved up, along with monitoring and verification schemes and energy bench marking. States need to prepare for a future where solar energy plays a much stronger role, both rooftop systems and solar farms, with a wide array of different financing and ownership schemes.”

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About the Author

writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Rhode Island. You can follow him on Google + and on Twitter. "There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest." Elie Wiesel

  • Utilities are fossil interest driven, and used to control their markets.
    So it is not al all obviuos that the Clean Power Plan will lead to lower consumer energy prices.
    I miss consumer interests and pro consumer market elements in it too.

    What would help the US energy transition, is when federal rules create a level playingfield for consumer markets.
    And e.g. create a market for consumers to buy a piece of a wind farm for their own use.

    A family that owns a piece of a wind farm, generate their own power, and have it for its cost price, 2 cent per kWh.
    Federal regulatios should give every family and small business the right to do net metering for their own power, als long as they generate it with a piece of wind or solar farm, that they own.
    This is the cheapest way to finance wind and solar farms, because consumers have the cheapest money.
    And it is possible because wind and solar farms work automatically.

    Owners of this type will become independent of the general power market.
    They only have t buy a service that balances the power from the rendewable sources, and what the owners, families, actually use on a given day

    Would a white house petition help to get this type of federal regulation?

  • Hazel

    Two problems. First, the report came from Georgia Tech, not U Georgia. Second, your link to the report is broken, here’s a news article link which works:

  • Ronald Brakels

    It is now 12:43 in the early afternoon on a Sunday in South Australia and the wholesale price of electricity has now fallen slightly below zero thanks to electricity production, which at this moment is mostly wind and solar, exceeding both the state’s consumption and abiltiy to export to the neighboring state. Some people deliberately work their knickers into a twist at the thought of some electricity production needing to be curtailed as a result of these circumstances, but currently it can be far cheaper to curtail a small amount of electricity production than to attempt to store it or build larger transmission lines.

    Anyway, this is one example of how renewables can lower electricity prices for consumers. With basically zero fuel cost, wind and solar have no incentive to cut production when wind and/or sunshine is strong and so push wholesale electricity prices lower.

    • Bob_Wallace

      It is such a tragedy when we have more wind or solar output than we can use at the moment, but do they ever grieve about the hours gas and coal plants sit idle and unloved?

      • Ronald Brakels

        I happen to know that Greg Hunt, Australia’s Minister for the Environment, weeps impotent tears of rage over the low capacity factor of Australia’s black coal power stations every night.

        Of course, I understand that in cabinets that aren’t Tony Abbott’s, the word “for” in “Minister for the Environment” isn’t an abreviation and the full title isn’t “Minister For Oligopolistically Ruining the Environment”.

    • Ronald Brakels

      And electricity prices also went negative early in the morning, although that is a not an uncommon event. And It wouldn’t take that many electric cars to soak it up. I am far too lazy to look up the actual figures, but lets say we had 100 megawatts excess electricity for an hour. And none of this special charger nonsense, just plain old standard 2,400 watt power points. That’s about 42,000 electric cars to sop that up out of a current total of about one million vehicles in the state. And we will have home and business energy storage, smart houses, and even utility scale storage although at the moment that looks like it is more going to be used to decrease transmission costs than pay for itself through electricity arbitrage in Australia.

  • Hans

    Link to report does not work

  • Mike Dill

    UoG researchers say: ‘that, by 2030, installed costs of solar would be
    approximately $2/watt for commercial-scale PV in 2010 dollars.’

    First Solar CEO says: ‘By 2017, We’ll Be Under $1.00 per Watt Fully Installed’

    UoG researchers need to read this site.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Earlier this year utility solar average was $1.58/watt according to GMT. Commercial was $2.19.

      I suspect First Solar was talking about utility scale. And I expect UoG is going to end up with egg on its face.

      • vensonata

        Best Price from Australia, July 2015 for residential rooftop 10 kw pv array Adelaide, South Australia, is $1.22 watt fully installed without subsidy. That is in U.S. currency. The larger the array the lower the cost since you still only need one inverter and other balance of system ratio. There are many areas of Aus. where the price is below $1.60 watt. The irony is utility PV is more expensive. (Source Solar
        Wild optimism will, in the case of solar, come closer to reality than stodgy clericalism, in estimating price.

      • Hazel

        I disagree about “egg on its face”. The purpose of this particular study is not to accurately predict the future price of solar installations. What I get from it is, “Even if we conservatively assume that installed costs of solar plants of various sizes fall very little, under this plan solar still plays a big role in reducing overall energy costs.”

        More aggressive assumptions would have *reduced* its credibility to important constituencies, even if the study would have been more accurate.

        • Bob_Wallace

          I read this paragraph in the above article –

          “For modeling purposes, the study’s researchers did detailed solar cost analysis and determined that, by 2030, installed costs of solar would be approximately $1.75/watt for utility-scale PV, $2/watt for commercial-scale PV, and $2.50/watt for residential-scale PV in 2010 dollars.”

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  • Frank

    Good for the economy. Good for business. Good for the environment. What’s not to love?

    • Bob_Wallace

      Makes for gloom in Koch-land….

      • Calamity_Jean

        Always a good thing for the rest of us.

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