Subcommittee Examines Access to Affordable and Reliable Electricity

February 27, 2014

WASHINGTON, DC – The Subcommittee on Energy and Power, chaired by Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-KY) today began its hearing series on the “Benefits of and Challenges to Energy Access in the 21st Century” with a focus on electricity. The subcommittee examined the benefits of access to affordable and reliable electricity as well current challenges to expanding electricity access.  

“The unusually cold weather we have recently experienced across the nation underscores the importance of affordable and reliable electricity. Under the Obama administration, electricity access is being jeopardized by a number of already finalized or pending measures raising its cost. This includes pending greenhouse gas regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency that will make it illegal to build a coal plant in America,” said Whitfield.

Members and witnesses discussed the importance of energy access to improving economic and living conditions and alleviating poverty, both domestically and abroad. Todd Moss, Chief Operating Officer and Senior Fellow of the Center for Global Development expressed concern that at least a billion people around the world still live without electricity. Moss urged the United States to be a leader in expanding access to electricity in the developing world and warned against harmful policies restricting meaningful energy access.

“If an all-of-the-above approach is good enough for the United States, how can we in good conscience stand in the way of the world’s poorest countries using their own resources to provide electricity for their own people?” asked Moss. “No one would openly argue that we should fight climate change on the back of the world’s poor. But we must be careful not to burden the poorest nations with romantic notions of an energy future that does not yet exist. If the United States is serious about closing the huge gap in energy access, we need to work in partnership with American businesses to extend our experience, capital, and innovation in generating abundant and affordable electricity for all.”

Mel Coleman, Chief Executive Officer of the Northern Arkansas Electric Cooperative, expressed that electric cooperatives’ purpose is to “power communities and empower members to improve the quality of their lives,” and explained that EPA’s climate regulations are standing in the way of that mission. “EPA’s climate regulations may well be the greatest threat facing our industry. We are extremely concerned that EPA will propose a standard to existing coal units this summer that will threaten the viability of our existing coal fleet, result in increased costs to our members and undermine the reliability of the nation’s power grid,” said Coleman.

Rep. Bob Latta (R-OH) questioned Coleman over the negative consequences consumers and businesses suffer as a result of higher electricity costs stemming from regulatory actions and mandates. Watch the exchange here:

Watch Rep. Latta here

North Carolina Utilities Commission Chairman Edward Finley also explained, “Adding potential unwarranted additional costs on our ratepayers will threaten reliability and the health, safety and welfare of our citizens.”

Whitfield concluded, “Regardless of intention, I believe any policy that increases the price of energy runs a serious risk of doing more harm than good. And the first victims of misguided measures are the least fortunate in society, both here in the U.S. and around the world.”