Rural Electric Cooperatives: Efficiency measures more important than allowance allocations

Here’s a stunner from Climate Wire (subs. req’d) today:

Rural electric cooperatives, which represent many small, coal-dependent utilities in the Midwest and raised a ruckus in the House debate, are eligible for a portion of allowances under the new draft.

But at a conference last week, the head of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, Glenn English, said “the basis for a deal” on climate would not revolve so much around allowances, but around whether people in coal-dependent regions would get enough help with efficiency retrofits on homes so they can manage potential electricity spikes.

Wow — somebody who would rather have smart policies than more allowances.

Interestingly, Boxer gave the Co-ops a real piece of the action:

Small Electricity Local Distribution Companies: For further consumer protection, small LDCs (including rural electric cooperatives) receive 0.5% of distributed allowances and will receive an additional 0.5% distribution of the supplemental allowance allocation described below each year from 2012 through 2025, phasing out by 2030.

I don’t see electricity price spikes resulting from the bill, since it has numerous cost-containment features, including a price collar (ceiling and floor), and regulated utility rates in general simply don’t move very quickly.

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The good news is that stimulus bill had a massive amount of money for weatherizing homes — and the House bill devotes an astonishing amount of investment and incentives toward boosting efficiency (“The triumph of energy efficiency: Waxman-Markey could save $3,900 per household and create 650,000 jobs by 2030”). Assuming the final legislation keeps all of the efficiency measures from the House, then electricity bills will probably stay pretty darn flat for a long time — see “EPA analysis of Waxman-Markey: Consumer electric bills 7% lower in 2020 thanks to efficiency “” plus 22 GW of extra coal retirements and no new dirty plants.” One obvious improvement to the final bill would be to have part of the electricity allowances go toward, just as one third of the allowances for natural gas distributors do.

In any case, I hope that English spells out in more detail exactly what he would like to see, since NRECA was slow to support the House bill, and as a result some of the local coo-ps still are still fighting the bill.