Debate over Clean Energy Jobs Act centers on prices

Posted on February 15, 2010. Filed under: Climate change, Economic development, Energy Policy |

From an article by Tom Content in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

In the rhetoric of the energy bill debate in Madison, energy prices will go up – either because the Legislature passes the Clean Energy Jobs Act or because the Legislature fails to pass it.

Rising energy prices are a familiar refrain to many in Wisconsin, where energy expenditures total $16 billion a year. A review of electricity price increases by the Journal Sentinel found residential customers across the state pay 39% to 70% more than they paid in 2001.

Advocates on both sides of the debate over the Clean Energy Jobs Act are raising fears about higher costs.

Opponents say utilities will have to invest billions of dollars in wind farms and other projects to comply with an aggressive renewable energy mandate proposed by the bill. Supporters say billions of dollars are at risk because of Wisconsin’s heavy reliance on coal.

A new analysis by the state Public Service Commission found that utility bills are likely to be less in 2025 if the bill passes and there’s a carbon tax or cap-and-trade system that penalizes coal.

Public Service Commission Chairman Eric Callisto testified at a recent hearing that power prices for a typical Wisconsin customer would fall nearly 7% if the bill is passed and there’s a $20-per-ton price on carbon. Prices would fall 1% if there’s a $10-per-ton price on carbon and would rise nearly 6.6% if there’s no carbon price, he said.

“But that’s not reality,” he said. “I don’t believe for a second that we’re going to see a future where carbon doesn’t have a price on it.”

In its studies over the last several years, the commission has been banking on the fact that there will be a price on carbon, he said.

Under that scenario, “there are dollars left on the table by the status quo,” Callisto said.


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