Energy planners and regulators have traditionally valued the health benefits of energy efficiency and renewable energy at zero — because these benefits do not flow to energy users in proportion to usage and because decision-makers had no simple and feasible way to estimate them. But recent work by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is an important step forward in being able to quantify the benefits per kilowatt-hour of efficiency and renewables across the United States. The numbers are quite dramatic. The “BPK” tool shows that in many cases, the cost of new wind and solar resources is entirely offset by the sizable benefits to public health from cleaner air. The tool, first released in 2019, was updated in 2021 to include more granular regional data.
This policy brief explores the methodology behind BPK and recommends several ways in which regulators and policymakers can use this information, from air quality planning to energy efficiency programs and rate design.