Last week, the Environmental Protection Agency announced its finalized Clean Power Plan (CPP) with new regulations to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from existing U.S. power plants. Much of the general industry conversation has focused on the CPP’s impact on utilities and the industry, and not centered around what consumers think about grid modernization and what they want from their electric grid. I am pleased, however, that our consumer research aligns with the CPP goals for a cleaner energy portfolio. Consumers want a cleaner energy mix, according to SGCC’s foundational research series Consumer Pulse and Segmentation studies conducted over the past five years. In fact, a cleaner energy mix is the top benefit that consumers express when asked which of several benefits they feel is the most important utility grid investment.
In the absence of a national energy policy, the CPP offers clear direction. That direction includes shuttering inefficient coal-fired power plants, achieving grid efficiencies through technology adoption and increasing the amount of renewable energy on the grid – all goals of the smart grid. And the CPP offers flexible ways for states to create that mix, many of which are already well on the wait to achieving their target emissions reductions set for 2032.
The CPP’s stated purpose is to cut carbon emissions, increase public health and ensure that a cleaner energy mix with lower public health impacts stimulates economic growth. Of course, the CPP is a complex directive whose benefits and costs are being debated as you read this and will end up in the courts. The spectrum of reaction ranges from fossil fuel interests and Obama Administration critics who are forecasting reliability and cost issues. Some clean energy advocates say that, with current market trends, the CPP doesn’t go far enough, that the market already ensures that its goals will be met and, possibly, exceeded. In terms of financial markets, some are saying that the CPP’s most important role is to signal the capital markets on the direction of the power generation industry, creating confidence that positive, current trends toward a cleaner energy mix are likely to continue.
This is America, after all, and views will be widely discordant.
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