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Although the health benefits of reducing criteria pollutants have been quantified in numerous studies, putting a value on how energy efficiency and renewable energy reduce these pollutants and provide health benefits has been more technically challenging. As a result, most cost-effectiveness analyses leave it out, and energy planning typically values the benefits at zero.

A new tool published by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Estimating the Health Benefits per-Kilowatt Hour of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, has the potential to change this status quo. It demonstrates that the health benefits gained from installing wind and solar may exceed the cost of new clean energy resources, and confirms that energy efficiency continues to prove its worth as the “first fuel.”

In a webinar presentation, the EPA’s Emma Zinsmeister explained more about this innovative new tool, and RAP’s Jim Lazar and Nancy Seidman offered ways in which policymakers can ensure that this public-health value is reflected in energy planning, resource acquisition, utility dispatch and electric rate design.