This month marks the one-year anniversary of the announcement of the Clean Power Plan, President Obama and the EPA’s regulation to reduce carbon pollution from existing power plants. While the Clean Power Plan focuses on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, it also includes a program to make sure all communities benefit from a clean energy transition. This program—the Clean Energy Incentive Program—is currently open for comment, providing an important opportunity to shape the environmental justice and rural implications of the Clean Power Plan.
The Clean Energy Incentive Program (CEIP) is a voluntary part of the Clean Power Plan that provides support for low-income communities to undertake renewable energy and energy efficiency projects. The CEIP will match state funds to incentivize early investment in renewable energy and energy efficiency before the Clean Power Plan’s first compliance deadline in 2020. The renewable energy projects can happen anywhere, but the energy efficiency projects must happen in low-income communities. This is an excellent opportunity to level the playing field for low-income communities, which often face barriers to accessing renewables and energy efficiency upgrades.
Although IATP supports the goals of the CEIP to reward states for early action, install more renewable energy and improve energy efficiency in low-income communities, we developed comments on the CEIP to increase equity considerations, with a specific focus on rural communities, which are hit disproportionately hard by climate change. Rural communities have higher poverty rates (18.1 percent in rural areas compared to 15.1 percent in urban areas), more persistent long-term poverty rates and higher child poverty rates than urban communities. Rural areas also have lower housing quality with lower average energy efficiency. This means that households with lower average incomes are paying a higher percentage of their income to heat, cool and power their homes. In addition, many rural economies are linked to natural resources (e.g. agriculture, forestry, fishing, tourism), so extreme weather impacts these areas much more. For these reasons, rural communities should not be left out of CEIP funding opportunities.