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Ceres Brings a Clean Energy Message to the States

Posted by Alli Gold Roberts at Sep 02, 2014 12:55 PM |
While federal clean energy policy is stymied in Washington, consensus is growing among America’s largest businesses and a bipartisan group of state legislators that clean energy makes economic sense, and it’s the right thing to do.
by Alli Gold Roberts, Manager, Policy Program Ceres Posted on Sep 02, 2014

If you focus too much on politics in Washington you might miss out on the action happening in states around the country. While federal clean energy policy is stymied in Washington, consensus is growing among America’s largest businesses and a bipartisan group of state legislators that clean energy makes economic sense, and it’s the right thing to do.

As Ceres and its partners showed in Power Forward 2.0, 60 percent of Fortune 100 companies have goals for renewable energy or greenhouse gas reductions. In 2012, these companies saved over $1 billion in energy costs, while reducing emissions equivalent to closing 15 coal-fired power plants.

States too are recognizing that smart energy policies mean new jobs, a hedge against volatile fossil fuel prices, cost savings for energy users, and cleaner air. Given these benefits, bipartisan coalitions of legislators have fended off anti-clean energy efforts like those to eliminate renewable portfolio standards in states from North Carolina to Kansas.

Not surprisingly, state policy impacts the efforts of leading companies, like those highlighted in our Power Forward 2.0 report. So last month, at the National Conference of State Legislators in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Ceres convened state legislators, companies, and investors for a closed-door meeting to discuss corporate energy management and state clean energy policy.

With the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan offering a further catalyst to support renewable portfolio standards and other policies that benefit corporate clean energy adopters, we thought what better time to have companies, their investors, and state legislators put their heads together than now?

In the room about a dozen Democratic and Republican legislators from Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska, Minnesota, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts gathered to discuss the challenges, opportunities, and successes in reducing carbon emissions. Five members of Ceres’ Investor Network on Climate Risk (INCR) and the BICEP (Business for Innovative Climate and Energy Policy) coalition joined the discussion.

What happens when you get such a diverse group together and allow them to have a frank conversation?

Consensus emerges.

The group agreed that renewable energy and energy efficiency expansion can help states support new jobs, investments, and growth in their states. For example, in Minnesota, wind is now the cheapest source of electricity in the state and makes up over 14 percent of the state’s electricity portfolio. The state gives much of the credit to its successful Renewable Energy Standard.

These types of smart policies are key to corporations achieving their clean energy goals. As Stu Dalheim, the Vice President of Shareholder Advocacy at Calvert Investments and one of the investors in attendance, put it, “We’ve seen examples of companies siting energy projects in states with very supportive energy policies. States are leading the way in providing a conducive environment for companies to meet their renewable and energy efficiency goals.” Calvert Investments has been vocal in calling on states to ramp up clean energy policies that have helped catalyze corporate clean energy efforts. These goals have garnered Calvert’s and other investors’ support because they make sense, from a business and investment perspective.

All of the investors at our closed-door meeting agreed that they invest in companies with a commitment to sustainability because those companies are able to produce additional value to their shareholders. In fact, they also see fantastic opportunities for investing in renewable energy and energy efficiency companies that provide energy choices for governments, businesses, homeowners, and others. Investors are achieving good returns, while also protecting the environment for future generations.

It was clear from the discussion, however, that there is a need for even more business and investor leadership and advocacy on climate and clean energy. As State Representative Chuck Isenhart from Iowa said, “We have lots of tech companies coming to Iowa for our wind power, but we need these companies to stand up and say that they want more renewable energy and the policies that support it.”

And, that’s exactly why Ceres works with companies and investors to continue to make the business case for climate and clean energy policies.

Meet the Expert

Alli Gold Roberts

Alli manages state level policy outreach on climate and energy policies with investors and businesses. Alli works on the Investor Network on Climate Risk (INCR) policy project and is a member of the Business for Innovative Climate and Energy Policy (BICEP) project team.

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