By: Shannon Baker-Branstetter, Policy Council, Consumers Union

There’s a lot of political maneuvering and debate in Pennsylvania about the Clean Power Plan, which aims to reduce pollution from power plants and expand the use of clean, renewable energy.

Amid all of the talk, the program’s true impact on consumers often gets lost: The Clean Power Plan can deliver critical benefits to consumers in the Keystone State, including lower electricity bills and cleaner air, if the state commits to developing a strong plan.

The Clean Power Plan sets state-specific goals to lower nationwide greenhouse-gas pollution from power plants by about one-third by 2030. States have the flexibility to develop their own tailored plans to determine how to achieve their specific pollution-reduction goals. Energy efficiency improvements and clean, renewable energy solutions are a major way states can achieve their goals while achieving cost-savings for consumers, low-income households and other electricity ratepayers.

The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California, which analyzed state renewable energy standards over the past decade, found these programs saved consumers more than $1.2 billion on their electricity bills. Indeed, utilities in states as diverse as Texas, Iowa and Michigan have reported that generating power through renewable sources such as solar and wind is more affordable than traditional power sources. In Pennsylvania, energy efficiency programs, such as those implemented by Act 129 in 2008, introduced measures such as smart meters and they have helped rate-payers save $750 million in electricity costs over the past eight years.

By implementing a state plan for Clean Power Plan compliance, Pennsylvania and other states can build on these programs and accelerate savings for consumers.

A new study from the Georgia Institute of Technology found that Pennsylvania could implement the Clean Power Plan in a way that saves the average Pennsylvania household more than $99 a year on electricity bills by 2030 and could save a total of $1,880 over the next 15 years. These savings would mean more money for consumers to spend on essentials, like food, housing and health care — and help boost further economic activity in Pennsylvania.

Some opponents claim that the Clean Power Plan burdens low-income communities — but these objections are misplaced. The Clean Power Plan emphasizes that residents in low-income or fixed-income households should have access to resources to lower their electricity bills. The recently announced Clean Energy Incentive Program — a major element of the Clean Power Plan — explicitly requires that benefits from the Clean Power Plan reach these residents. Low-income households pay a disproportionate share of their income on energy, so the energy efficiency programs funded by the incentive effort will have a direct benefit in lowering energy bills for these families.

The American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy calculated that the incentive program could represent $1.2 billion worth of investment in projects in low-income communities, in the form of weatherization projects to help lower utility bills and boost energy efficiency and renewable energy jobs for residents in these communities. It’s up to each state to make sure it takes full advantage of this program and its direct benefits to consumers.

Consumers Union believes the Clean Power Plan will have a positive impact on residents in Pennsylvania and others across the country. We join other consumer advocates to defend the plan in the courts and will continue to push states to implement these important programs in an affordable and equitable manner.

More clean energy is in our future, and states will play a pivotal role in crafting plans to get us there. With a little foresight and effective planning, the Clean Power Plan has the ability to significantly reduce harmful pollution from power plants while lowering utility costs for consumers across the country.