Better Health a Key Benefit of Renewables, Study Says
Building wind and solar farms helps to reduce the human impact on climate change by displacing noxious emissions from coal-fired power plants. A new study says there’s another important benefit to renewables development: cost savings from cleaner air that saves lives.
Researchers from Harvard University, in a bid to show the monetary value of clean energy projects in terms of improved public health, have found that energy efficiency measures and low-carbon energy sources can save a region between $5.7 million and $210 million annually, based on the accepted dollar value of human life.
Those benefits depend on the type of low-carbon energy involved and the population density of the area surrounding a coal-fired power plant whose emissions are reduced by a clean energy project, according to the study, published Monday in the journal Nature Climate Change.
“This study demonstrates that energy efficiency and renewable energy can have substantial benefits to both the climate and to public health, and that these results could be a big player in a full benefit-cost analysis of these projects,” study lead author Jonathan Buonocore, a research associate at Harvard’s Center for Health and the Global Environment, said. “Additionally, this research shows that the climate benefits and the health benefits are on par with each other.”
Renewables and energy efficiency measures — major components of the Obama administration’s new Clean Power Plan — help displace power plants running on coal and other fossil fuels, which are the leading drivers of climate change. They also help reduce harmful emissions of nitrous oxide, sulphur dioxide and carbon dioxide.