Electricity Supply:

Consideration of Environmental Costs in Selecting Fuel Sources

RCED-95-187: Published: May 19, 1995. Publicly Released: May 19, 1995.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed whether the consideration of externalities affected the use of renewable energy, focusing on: (1) how states consider externalities in planning for electricity needs; and (2) the Department of Energy's (DOE) role is in these activities.

GAO found that: (1) the consideration of externalities in planning for electricity production has generally not affected the selection or acquisition of renewable energy sources, since electricity from renewable energy costs so much more than electricity from fossil fuels; (2) the use of renewable energy to produce electricity has primarily resulted from special programs that require such use; (3) 16 states assign a quantitative value to externalities, 9 states assign a qualitative value to externalities, and the remaining states do not consider externalities in planning for their electricity needs; and (4) DOE role in considering externalities has mainly been to conduct and support research.

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