An Analysis of Costs and Health Co-Benefits for a U.S. Power Plant Carbon Standard

by Jonathan J. Buonocore
Cost vs Health Benefits of Power Plant Carbon Standards

Cost vs Health Benefits of Power Plant Carbon Standards

Reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from power plants can have important “co-benefits” for public health by reducing emissions of air pollutants. Here, we examine the costs and health co-benefits, in monetary terms, for a policy that resembles the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan. We then examine the spatial distribution of the co-benefits and costs, and the implications of a range of cost assumptions in the implementation year of 2020.

Nationwide, the total health co-benefits were $29 billion 2010 USD (95% CI: $2.3 to $68 billion), and net co-benefits under our central cost case were $12 billion (95% CI: -$15 billion to $51 billion). Net co-benefits for this case in the implementation year were positive in 10 of the 14 regions studied. The results for our central case suggest that all but one region should experience positive net benefits within 5 years after implementation.

For every $1 invested in reducing toxic emissions from power plants can result in $7 of health and economic benefits by preventing emergency room visits, hospitalizations and premature deaths from diseases like asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Additionally, transitioning to renewable energy impacts heat-related illness, cardiovascular events, exacerbated asthma and allergies, and the uncertainty and distress caused by extreme weather.