Affordable energy services for home heating and cooling are essential to the health and safety of older adults. However, the way much of the world’s energy is produced and consumed cannot be sustained. Scientists urge immediate attention to current trends in energy supply and use.
Energy must meet current demand but not compromise future generations’ ability to meet their needs. Such fundamental changes in the energy industry could increase costs to utility consumers. State and federal policymakers face the challenge of reducing emissions from utility generating facilities while also ensuring affordable energy.
SUSTAINABLE ENERGY: Policy
Balancing sustainability and affordability
Policymakers should develop sustainable energy policies that ensure an affordable supply of reliable energy. Efforts to increase the percentage of electricity produced from renewable sources should be cost-effective. Sustainable energy policies should ensure all consumers can afford enough energy to meet their basic needs. All options to reduce greenhouse gas emissions should comply with environmental regulations. They should also be cost-effective.
To meet these standards, policymakers should ensure that policies:
- are integrated into a least-cost policy framework;
- ensure that any national or state program for capping carbon emissions through an auction or sale of carbon allowances uses a significant share of the generated revenues to compensate consumers for energy and other price increases;
- ensure that any proceeds from allowances provided to local utilities and other entities are used to benefit ratepayers and result in commensurate reductions in residential utility bills;
- seek to implement policies across all relevant sectors of the economy;
- mitigate the impact of any price increases on those least able to afford energy;
- ensure that consumers with low incomes who lack the financial resources to reduce or eliminate their use of carbon-based energy have access to weatherization and related energy efficiency programs as well as clean-energy technologies;
- ensure all policies are transparent, consistent, and equitable;
- prioritize policies that lower energy costs by improving energy efficiency, recognizing that these policies are generally less expensive to implement and less of a burden on consumers;
- provide incentives to conserve energy, while also recognizing that market imperfections exist in the energy sector and, as such, that simple reliance on higher prices as a means to reduce demand can impose unnecessarily high costs on consumers;
- ensure that any new regulations include compliance deadlines long enough to allow the creation of least-cost responses that avoid substantial rate increases for utility ratepayers;
- support research and development of new, cost-effective renewable energy sources and technologies;
- ensure adequate and fair access to transmission facilities for distributing renewable sources of energy at a reasonable cost to ratepayers;
- establish or improve government procurement policies to maximize the use of cost-effective renewable energy technologies; and
- establish or enhance standards for the incorporation of renewable energy technologies in all new public-sector buildings and major renovations.