Monday, October 14, 2019

Guest Blogger: Analisa Freitas “Affordable Clean Energy Solutions and the Clean Power Plan, Bridging the Energy Divide”

Analisa Freitas

When it comes to climate change impacts, those with the most limited access to basic resources are taking on the largest share of the burden. In the United States, 40% of all carbon pollution comes from power plants which is directly linked to exacerbating the impacts of climate change. It is no secret that the impacts of pollution affect vulnerable communities the hardest, including Latino populations across the nation, who compose 17% of the population overall. So how do we relieve this burden? For the most vulnerable populations lacking access to clean energy, the solution should not be to continue depending on fossil fuels, but rather to make clean energy more affordable and accessible. Enter the Clean Power Plan!

Last summer, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed the Clean Power Plan (CPP) to establish limits on carbon pollution from existing power plants, the first standards of its kind. The proposed rule has come under fire by coal interests, arguing that cutting coal use would drastically raise electricity rates and would particularly hurt vulnerable communities such as communities of color, including Latinos, seniors, and low-income households and, as a result, distracting these communities from the many benefits of renewable energy.

However,  offering notable benefits to low- and fixed-income households, the CPP actually insulates these persons from the fuel price fluctuations which already plague our market, due to the high cost of coal. Furthermore, reducing carbon pollution – as mandated by the Plan – will improve the health of millions of Americans, doing so by directly protecting them from respiratory diseases.

The core policies of the EPA’s Clean Power Plan call for a strong embrace of energy efficiency, advancing wind and solar sources, and a deviation from the common belief that coal is the best (affordable) energy option on the table. A transition to a cleaner energy future, as facilitated by the Clean Power Plan, will lower the cost of electricity, thereby helping the most economically vulnerable Americans to spend less of their income percentage on unnecessary energy costs. The United States is looked up to be one of the nations to lead this change, and it’s time to illuminate the steps for leading and developing countries, such as Mexico, to steer away from a 1-way power system into the energy cloud. In addition, the plan falls directly in line with protecting highly impacted communities from further disaster, and supports a myriad of co-benefits, outlined here:

The Health Benefits. Nationally and on average, lower- and fixed-income communities live in a closer proximity to dirty power plants, and in areas that frequently violate EPA standards. The Clean Power Plan’s efforts to cut carbon pollution will help prevent thousands of asthma attacks in children, heart attacks, absences from school and work, and premature deaths. Those without access to quality healthcare (the above populations) will reap the benefits of the Plan the most.

The Energy Efficiency Benefits. Investments in energy efficiency might be the single best allocation of household income for families struggling to pay their utility bills. Consumers will save money and reduce their use of energy, where dollars can be stretched further and efficiency upgrades will make living environments healthier and more comfortable. In fact, investing in efficient appliances can lower bills for the price of electricity sold in regional markets – not to mention that reducing electricity consumption reduces pollution from burning fossil fuels.

The Renewable Energy Benefits. For low-income households and communities, investing in renewable energy provides a cushion against sudden fuel shocks from coal or gas spikes in the market. Renewable energy is already growing nationwide, with solar and wind energy benefiting many rural communities in the United States. Given the fact that there will always be sun and wind, it’s common sense that there will be minimum fluctuations from the availability of these resources. Renewables will only become more affordable with the growth that the industry and technology is poised to show.

As Latinos, supporting the CPP will only further the health and wealth of our communities from the ground up and is the first step to take in demonstrating our leadership in the environmental movement. The Plan presents a commonsense solution to roll back dependence on dirty, inefficient and dangerous fossil fuels, and to stimulate investment in energy efficiency and renewable energy to maximize health, environmental, economic and societal benefits. This is our moment to curb carbon emissions today and make clean energy more accessible and affordable to all – especially the most vulnerable – to protect against the worst impacts of climate change.

Analisa Freitas is a Project Coordinator for Voces Verdes, an independent non-partisan coalition of Latino leaders and organizational partners who advocate for sound environmental policy to combat climate change and support clean, renewable energy.