Sustainable Energy


Affordable energy for home heating and cooling is essential to the health and safety of older adults. At the same time, older adults are especially vulnerable to climate change-related health impacts of heat waves, natural disasters, and poor air quality. 

There is consensus among both scientists and the public that climate change needs to be addressed through how we produce and use energy. Many states have attempted to do so by adopting energy efficiency mandates, developing renewable and clean energy, and limiting greenhouse gas emissions. Several major utilities have pledged to reduce emissions and invest in clean energy. 

Such changes in the energy industry could increase costs to utility consumers, challenging efforts to provide affordable energy. However, trends show prices falling for large-scale contracts for renewable energy, sometimes making it price-competitive with fossil fuel generation. According to a study from the International Renewable Energy Agency, of which the U.S. is a member, “newly installed renewable power capacity increasingly costs less than the cheapest power generation options based on fossil fuels.” In addition, a report from the Energy Information Administration found that the share of U.S. electricity generation from renewable sources almost doubled between 2010 and 2018, in part because of “rapid cost declines.” 



Balancing sustainability and affordability

Policymakers should develop and support affordable and reliable sustainable energy policies as they address climate change and weather-related events. All policies should be transparent, consistent, and equitable. 

Sustainable energy policies should also: 

  • ensure all consumers can meet their essential energy needs; 
  • require that proceeds from any carbon reduction plan be used to benefit ratepayers and result in commensurate reductions in residential utility bills (see also Energy and Environmental Taxes policy); 
  • provide targeted assistance for consumers who lack the financial resources to reduce or eliminate their use of carbon-based energy, ideally without shifting those costs to other residential ratepayers (see also Energy Assistance policy in the Energy Affordability section of this chapter); 
  • prioritize policies that lower energy costs by improving energy efficiency, recognizing that these policies are generally less expensive to implement; and 
  • ensure that any new regulations include compliance deadlines long enough to allow the creation of least-cost responses that avoid or minimize rate increases for utility ratepayers.