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Environmental justice advocates have a new role to play in their states’ electric-sector planning. In its new rule on carbon emissions from power plants, called the Clean Power Plan, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency requires states to involve community stakeholders in their compliance planning processes. Underlying this requirement are the often disproportional health and environmental impacts that power plants can have on vulnerable communities.

Recently, there has been a sharp increase in the number of utilities proposing to increase mandatory monthly fixed charges for electricity. Utilities prefer fixed charges over usage charges, because fixed charges ensure a set amount of revenue each month, regardless of sales. However, higher fixed charges are an inequitable and inefficient means to address utility revenue concerns: they reduce customer control, disproportionately impact low-usage and low-income customers, dilute incentives for energy efficiency and distributed generation, and increase electric system costs.

Next Tuesday (February 2) the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) participating states and regional stakeholders will meet to begin their second in-depth review of the RGGI program. This meeting will solicit stakeholder input on RGGI program design elements, including considerations for compliance under EPA’s Clean Power Plan. The last program review in 2012 led to a 45 percent reduction in the regional CO2 cap, among other changes.

The past year has brought plenty of changes in the energy regulatory landscape, particularly in relation to climate change and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Accounting for the resulting costs of these and other policies by incorporating a CO2 price is now firmly in the realm of best practice for utilities and system operators engaged in long-term energy planning. To assist with such planning and to provide a resource for other stakeholders, Synapse’s CO2 price forecasts simplify the complex process of determining effective CO2 prices by combining our own modeling results with comprehensive analysis of other CO2 prices in use throughout the electricity sector.

Meeting the emission reduction goals of states within the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) will yield billions of dollars in savings and tens of thousands of new jobs each year for over a decade, according to a Synapse study released today. A more stringent RGGI cap, complemented by individual state renewable resource and efficiency standards, will help states achieve their climate goals, which cluster around a 40 percent reduction from 1990 emissions levels by 2030.

As state agencies and other stakeholders begin to explore options for compliance with the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan, critical questions are emerging regarding the costs of compliance to consumers and the role of energy efficiency in reducing both emissions and bills. Synapse modeled various compliance options to determine how big an impact strong energy efficiency policies can have on the achievability and affordability of Clean Power Plan compliance.

Energy efficiency is widely recognized as an abundant and low-cost option for complying with the requirements of EPA’s Clean Power Plan. However, not all electric customers have equal access to customer-funded efficiency programs. Concerns about fairness between customers—those who participate in programs and see greater benefits than those who do not—create a barrier to widespread implementation of energy efficiency programs.

Among those attending side events at the Paris climate talks, there was general confidence that the negotiations would result in a signed climate agreement. Rather than ruminating on a worst-case scenario—one where world leaders leave the event without a plan to combat climate change—participants of the side events focused on making sure that what we get will be a “FAB deal”: fair, ambitious, and binding. Indeed, the feeling among parties outside the negotiations was largely that the general shape of the deal is known and therefore the time for debates is over and the time for serious climate action has arrived.

The Oklahoma Corporation Commission denied last week the application of Oklahoma Gas and Electric (OG&E) to spend $1.1 billion on new capital projects—primarily coal plant retrofits to comply with federal environmental standards. The Commission’s decision casts the future of the 1,100 megawatt Sooner Generating Station into doubt.

Vulnerable communities such as low-income communities and communities of color are disproportionately affected by the health and climate impacts caused by power plant emissions. To comply with EPA’s Clean Power Plan, states must engage these communities during plan development and analyze opportunities to counteract these effects.

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