By Adam Tobias | Wisconsin Reporter
MADISON, Wis. — An energy consulting firm predicts several new EPA regulations will go through bank accounts like a tsunami, and the storm will come from three directions.
Environmental Protection Agency policies that aim to cut carbon dioxide emissions are expected to create $284 billion in additional energy costs in 2020, according to a report by Energy Ventures Analysis Inc.
The policies, which President Obama supports, will result in a $680 increase in annual electricity and natural gas bills, says the study, commissioned by Peabody Energy, the world’s largest private-sector coal company.
The American industrial industry will be hardest hit, with some $200 billion in new energy expenses.
Some of that, of course, will be passed along to the consumer, putting an even further strain on personal finances.
But don’t forget about paying for an influx of families that will now qualify for help from publicly funded energy assistance programs.
“The EPA is forcing its agenda at a time when more than half of Americans have said only a $20 increase in their monthly utility bills would create hardship and a record 115 million families qualify for energy assistance,” Peabody spokesman Vic Svec said in a statement. “The Administration’s policies will hurt the poor, working class, elderly, minorities, and business and manufacturing the most.”
In Wisconsin, the number of families seeking help from the state’s Home Energy Assistance Program has increased steadily, although the average distribution amounts are having a hard time keeping up.
The program, which operates with state and federal money, gave $122,679,158 to 178,337 households in 2009, with close to 209,000 applying. Each family got an average of $687.91.
Nearly 243,000 households filed for energy assistance in 2013, but only 221,962 were accepted. They shared $111,838,560, an average of $503.86 per family
The Wisconsin Department of Administration, which oversees the program, estimates it will help 227,000 families pay their heating bills in 2014-15, according to agency spokeswoman Stephanie Marquis.
Since Oct. 1, the state has helped 39,347 households.
The program should see even more activity in 2020, especially with Wisconsin’s energy costs expected to increase by $4.8 billion, with the average family paying $488 more in annual bills. That 28 percent hike represents the 34th largest in the country.
“Consumers and policymakers must understand the full consequences of EPA’s existing and proposed policies and the real energy crisis that the agency is about to create,” Svec said.
The Energy Ventures Analysis report blames a majority of the cost increases on several EPA regulations in recent years, including the National Ambient Air Quality Standards, Cross-State Air Pollution Rule and Mercury and Air Toxics Standards.
A 135 percent hike in the wholesale price of natural gas is also affecting electricity and natural gas rates.
Blame that increase on baseline market and policy changes between 2012 and 2020, as well as a higher pressure on gas prices caused by recent EPA regulations on the power sector and the proposed Clean Power Plan, the study says.
Testifying before the EPA this summer, Peabody called for a withdrawal of the planned carbon rule for existing power plants and instead recommended a greater expansion of technology as the long-term solution to improving emissions, according to Svec.
Peabody has proposed investing in efficiency improvements, deploying advanced super-critical coal plants and supporting greater research and development toward next-generation technologies, including carbon capture and storage, Svec said.