EPA climate rule economically feasible, study says

Turning to renewable energy sources and energy efficiency programs is becoming more and more economically feasible for utilities across the U.S., according to a new report.

The analysis by advocacy group Ceres concludes that states have the ability to go "beyond the fence" to meet new targets set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) without breaking the budget for utilities.

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“Renewable energy and energy efficiency, two of EPA's Clean Power Plan building blocks, are increasingly cost-effective options for electric utilities seeking to lower their carbon emissions,” Ceres President Mindy Lubber said.

“Our analysis shows that some utilities are beginning to deliver substantial amounts of clean energy and energy efficiency, while others are lagging," Lubber said.

The EPA's proposal allows a state to design its own plan for meeting the carbon emissions reductions, meaning it can use renewable fuels, natural gas, nuclear power, or promote efficiency programs in place of coal-fired power plants.

That same flexibility is a point of contention for industry groups such as the National Mining Association and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

The report ranks the 32 largest electric utilities across the U.S. based on clean energy usage.

NV Energy came in at No. 1 in renewable energy sales, with Xcel Energy a close second. PG&E ranked third.

"The electric utility industry is entering a period of major transformation as it moves from a rate-regulated industry of monopolies to a market-based competitive system driven by consumer choices," Jon Wellinghoff, former chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory  Commission, said.

"Ignoring this clean energy shift is dangerous for both the traditional utility business and the environment.” Wellinghoff added.

Opponents of President Obama's climate rule, however, argue that the new standards will shutter coal plants across the U.S. and raise electricity rates for consumers.