New mandates have real consequences on electricity prices

You may be familiar with the drill: First, government regulators announce new mandates on power production. Then proponents and critics of the new rules debate the potential impact on how much consumers pay for electricity – often coming to very different conclusions.

It may be hard to decide who to believe.

But there’s much less room for debate when we can see the impacts on electricity bills that consumers are receiving today.

The Denver Post’s Vincent Carroll describes how consumers in Pueblo, Colo. have watched the amount they pay for electricity jump by 26 percent since 2010 because the local utility “was forced to give up coal-fired power nearly cold turkey.”

The result, as noted in a Washington Post article, is literally leaving some Pueblo residents in the dark. The newspaper profiles a mother who, after her electricity was shut off, “has adopted a Depression-era obsessiveness” to save money on her power bill. 

Carroll notes, “You don't simply replace a significant portion of coal-power plant capacity in the nation with gas-fired units, as well as wind and solar installations, without someone picking up the rather gargantuan tab.”

Carroll links to a June Business Insider article describing how one of the nation’s largest utilities “sent shock wave last week by suggesting consumers could see their electricity bills jump an estimated 40-60% in the next few years” because of the cost of complying with new EPA regulations.

Government policy has real impacts on electricity prices – and electricity prices can have real impacts on consumers. That’s a lesson worth considering as the EPA pushes broad new rules to reduce carbon.