Backing Clean Power Plan Will Accelerate The Clean Energy Future
While legal experts are debating EPA’s Clean Power Plan in Washington next Tuesday, the U.S. business community is galloping ahead on the clean energy future.
From General Motors to Bank of America to Apple, dozens of iconic companies are now fully committed to running their companies with 100 percent renewable energy. The writing is on the wall: clean energy has arrived and fossil fuel power generation is fading. And a favorable Clean Power Plan ruling will hasten this transition, benefitting both our global climate, which is over-heating due to carbon pollution, and businesses that want policy certainty in dealing with this threat. By enacting this rule, all 50 states will be on the path to lowering the carbon footprint of their electric power plants.
Even with today’s patchwork quilt of energy policies, wind and solar power are becoming mainstream. More than 10,000 megawatts of new capacity was added in 2015 alone, more than two-thirds of the total renewable energy generating capacity installed last year in the United States.
The green power boom is being fueled by a combination of factors, the biggest being plummeting renewable energy costs that have made wind and solar energy cost-competitive with fossil fuel power plants in many states. A multi-year extension of federal tax creditsfor wind and solar power has helped, too.
States and regions that have enacted their own carbon-reducing policies are seeing the biggest benefits.
Nine states in the Northeast, for example, have saved billions of dollars in their energy bills by encouraging more aggressive energy efficiency programs through the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, or RGGI, a cap-and-trade effort that has helped reduce power plant emissions by 30 percent since the program began in 2008. The nine Northeast governors are discussing plans to extend and strengthen RGGI’s goals beyond 2020, and 90-plus companies and investors are encouraging them to do so.
Another shining success is California, which will be celebrating the 10th anniversary of its seminal climate law, Assembly Bill 32, next Tuesday. Since enacting the law, the state has added 500,000 new clean energy jobs, all while growing the economy at a healthy 3 to 4 percent a year.
Last month California lawmakers, with strong support from the business community, passed a new climate law, Senate Bill 32, that will extend and strengthen the state’s carbon-reduction goals well beyond 2020, to 2030. And, more than anywhere, California is targeting both the power sector and the transportation sector for massive carbon reductions. In addition to getting a quarter of its electricity from renewables, the state is pushing forward on low-carbon fuels and electric vehicles. Earlier this year, the state’s largest utility, PG&E, submitted plans to install 7,600 electric vehicle charging stations in California, which would provide a major bump to Gov. Jerry Brown’s bold vision to have 1.5 million zero-emissions vehicles on California roads by 2030.
So why are businesses like PG&E and General Motors so enthusiastic about electric vehicles and green power?
First, they see climate change as a direct threat to many businesses that we must deal with by lowering carbon pollution. Second, they strongly prefer broad, consistent national policies over patchwork state policies. And third, they prefer the energy cost certainty of sourcing renewable energy over natural gas and other fossil fuels, which are prone to volatile price swings.
General Motors cited many of these reasons when it announced its 100 percent green energy goal last week. “This pursuit of renewable energy benefits our customers and communities through cleaner air while strengthening our business through lower and more stable energy costs,” CEO Mary Barra said.
About a half-dozen companies, including IKEA and Mars Inc., echoed the sentiment in a legal brief they filed last spring in support of the Clean Power Plan. “Swift and full implementation of the Clean Power Plan will directly benefit [our] operations,” wrote the companies in their 30-page filing.
The evidence is clear: the business community is already moving forward with clean energy, and by getting the Clean Power Plan back on track, their efforts will advance even faster. And that will be good news for both the global environment and our national economy.