Analysis: Enviro Groups Don’t Like It When You Check Their Math

Andrew Follett | Energy and Science Reporter

A recent report by a prominent environmental group claims that energy efficiency measures have reduced American power bills, but a closer look at the data shows this may not be the case.

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) found states that did not invest in green energy projects and energy efficiency measures “are paying for it with both higher electricity bills and greater amounts of power-plant pollution emissions from fossil fuel-fired electricity generation.”

The report further claims states that invested heavily in green energy and efficiency measures have cut electricity rates or kept rates down, but a DCNF examination of NRDC’s data doesn’t support the group’s conclusion.

Statistical regressions run by TheDCNF using the same data found no statistically significant positve correlation between the number of pro-green energy polices in a state and falling power bills. In fact, statistical analysis determined that states with falling power bills tend to have very few policies supporting green energy and states with rising power bills had numerous policies.

The NRDC report also accidentally omitted data from Utah in its report, which the group’s spokesman said was a mistake he pledged to correct.

“In spite of fears of increased costs for utilities and consumers, average electricity rates have actually fallen. ” Sierra Martinez, a former energy lawyer in the NRDC‘s California office, wrote in the report. “States that have resisted clean energy have seen cost increases, and their residents are paying higher monthly bills.”

Martinez is listed as the report’s principal author but is no longer employed by the organization, according to Pat Remick, a communications strategist for NRDC.

Of the 49 states examined by the NRDC, residential power bills have only fallen in eight between 2000 and 2015.

The top four states with the fastest rising power bills were Hawaii with a 44 percent rise, Connecticut with a 39 percent rise, Massachusetts with a 29 percent rise, and Rhode Island with a 28 percent rise. Washington D.C. had a 37 percent rise.

Each of those states has more pro-green energy subsidies or energy efficiency measures than the national average, according to the Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency. Democrats almost exclusively control the state governments in each of those states, and none of them voted Republican in the last five presidential elections.

The five states with the fastest falling power bills were Louisana with a 14 percent fall, Illionois with a 12 percent fall, Arizona with a nine percent fall, Arkansas with a seven percent fall, and North Carolina with a four percent fall.

Other states with falling power bills included Maine, Iowa and Washington state. These states have fewer subsidies and energy efficiency measures than the average.

“Certainly it’s clear that clean energy leadership doesn’t come with a detectable cost to customers,” Remick said of the report.

A previous statistical analysis run by TheDCNF found a positive, statistically significant correlation between high electricity bills and the number of policies supporting green energy in U.S. states.

States that offered rebates, buy-back programs, tax exemptions and direct cash subsidies to green energy were 64 percent more likely to have higher than average electric bills. For every additional pro-green energy policy in a state, the average price of electricity rose by about .01 cents per kilowatt-hour.

The average American’s electric bill has gone up 10 percent since January 2009, despite the declining price of generating power.

Record low costs for electricity generation — thanks to America’s new natural gas supplies created by hydraulic fracturing, or fracking — have not translated into lower monthly payments for consumers. This may be due to new regulations and subsidies granted to green energy.

Expensive electricity disproportionately affects poor, lower-income Americans, since the poor tend to spend a higher proportion of their incomes on basic needs, like energy.

As electricity becomes more expensive, the cost of producing goods and services that use electricity increases, effectively raising the price of almost everything. The higher prices are ultimately paid for by consumers, not industries.

David Simmons contributed to this report.

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