Congressional proposals for cutting carbon pollution from the electricity sector are flying around Capitol Hill this week. Bold progress on cleaning up the nation’s electricity grid is central to curbing global climate change. It would also have a dramatic, but often under-appreciated, impact on local air quality and health. Clean Energy Futures project examines how different policy proposals stack up.
A clean electricity standard that promotes the shift to clean and non-emitting sources and achieves a target of 80 percent “clean” generation by the year 2030 results in the top estimated net benefits for both climate and health among eight options we analyzed, including cap and trade policies, carbon prices, alternative clean electricity standards, and regulatory options.
Our new analysis shows that a national program for reaching 80 percent clean electricity by 2030 (80x30) would drive down carbon pollution, averting approximately 30 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions over the next three decades. Based on the social cost of carbon, the value of those carbon reductions is nearly two times the estimated program costs. The average cost per ton of carbon averted would be just $11.50 — less than a fast-food meal. That alone is good news, but when the health benefits from cleaner air are considered, the net benefits of the 80x30 clean electricity standard we analyzed reach $367 billion by 2030 and grow to $1.4 trillion by 2050.