Cleaner air with the help of these measures, including solar and wind, can lead to saving consumers’ money and health, according to a policy brief by RAP on EPA’s BPK tool. (Illustrative Photo; Photo Credit: fanjianhua/Shutterstock.com)
- US EPA’s BPK tool provides specific data in cents per kWh of health benefits that energy efficiency and renewable energy provide
- The BPK tool can be used by air quality regulators to develop plans to reduce public health impacts at the lowest cost
- Reducing fossil fuel generated electricity will lead to avoiding costs associated with lost productivity, hospital admissions and other impacts related to it
A benefits per kWh (BPK) tool prepared by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) helps quantify the benefits per kWh of efficiency and renewables in the country. In many cases, as clean energy focused NGO Regulatory Assistance Project (RAP), says the cost of new wind and solar resources in the US is entirely offset by the sizable benefits to public health from cleaner air.
In a policy brief titled Health Benefits by the Kilowatt-Hour: Using EPA Data to Analyze the Cost-Effectiveness of Efficiency and Renewables, RAP explores the methodology of the BPK tool and recommends ways for analysts and policymakers to use the information to plan for air quality to energy efficiency programs and rate design.
The BPK tool provides specific data for various regions of the US in cents per kWh of the health benefits that energy efficiency and renewable energy provide.
In designing BPK values, the EPA assessed the impact of reducing fossil-fueled generation on criteria pollutants, linking the same to health benefits and the resulting avoided costs associated with lost productivity, hospital admissions and other impacts.
Health effects were separately measured by the EPA for 4 types of resources, namely energy efficiency that’s uniform throughout the year, energy efficiency concentrated during peak load periods, utility scale & distributed solar, and onshore & offshore wind.
Results provide low and high estimates using 3% and 7% discount rates for future benefits. The monetary health benefits of reduced emissions are the same no matter how the emissions are reduced, but the costs for different methods can vary widely, reads the brief.
“US deaths from premature mortality caused by fine particle pollution are estimated at 100,000 people per year,” according to RAP analysts. “That makes the information the EPA has made available on health benefits of reducing fine particles critical for air and energy communities as they evaluate strategies for saving consumers money and improving their health, particularly in areas overburdened with fine particle levels.”
At the same time, using BPK can make it easy for air quality regulators to develop plans to reduce public health impacts at the lowest cost, they can engage in decision making processes with other state agencies regarding public health benefits of energy efficiency and renewable energy.
The EPA tool was initially released in 2019 and has now been updated to dive deeper into how different power generation fuel mixes change with high-emitting plants retiring and increase in the overall power generation with the growing use of renewable energy.