Climate 411

The U.S. Department of Energy can marshal its innovation efforts toward beating the climate crisis. Here’s how.

This post was co-authored by Steve Capanna, Director for U.S. Climate Policy and Analysis

In a new policy blueprint, EDF offers recommendations for how the Department of Energy can align its innovation budget with the climate challenge across its technology programs.

President Biden has pledged to deliver the largest ever federal investment in clean energy innovation — $400 billion over 10 years — to combat the climate crisis. And last Friday, the administration reasserted this commitment in its discretionary budget request, which aims to put us on “a path to quadruple clean energy research government-wide in four years, emphasizing U.S. preeminence in developing innovative technologies needed to tackle the climate crisis.”

This shows a recognition that, while technological innovation alone will not solve climate change, it plays a critical role in improving the costs and performance of essential climate technologies like wind turbines and electric vehicles, allowing the United States to more rapidly reduce greenhouse gases, eliminate health-harming pollution and create jobs in emerging energy sectors. Innovation is also essential for developing and commercializing the next generation of clean energy tools such as clean hydrogen and carbon removal that we need to reach net-zero emissions in the U.S. no later than 2050.

While the Department of Energy funding has helped reduce the costs and improve the performance of several key climate technologies, resulting in huge economic and environmental benefits, the agency’s innovation priorities and budgets have, to some extent, failed to keep pace with the extraordinary challenges and opportunities in front of us.

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The Climate Commitment Act could be game-changing for Washington state and the country: Here’s what you should know

Washington has an opportunity in the Climate Commitment Act to adopt transformative climate policy. It would enable the state to slash greenhouse gas emissions at the pace and scale necessary to fight the climate crisis, help address the disproportionate and historic pollution burden in many low-income communities and communities of color, and provide a policy model for other states on how to achieve their emission reduction goals.

There are many reasons the Legislature should act swiftly to ensure this landmark policy becomes law. Here is a rundown of the key features, how they work and why they matter.

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The Wall Street Journal says electric vehicles are better – but underestimates how much

A recent Wall Street Journal article answers definitively YES to the question of whether electric vehicles are really better for the environment. But even this strong endorsement of electric vehicles underestimates just how good these cars, trucks and buses will be for our climate and air.

The article reports findings from researchers at the University of Toronto. The researchers compared vehicle emissions for a 2021 Toyota RAV4 and a Tesla Model 3. The study is clear that operations are cleaner for electric vehicles.  With each mile driven, the electric vehicles’ environmental performance outpaced gasoline-powered cars, quickly wiping out the slightly higher production emissions for electric vehicles.

Even with a relatively dirty fossil-fuel-based electricity generation mix and metal-intensive battery materials, this study – which looked only at a snapshot of technology as it is today – found that electric vehicles break even with gasoline-powered cars at about 20,000 miles of lifetime usage. And that break-even point is getting lower quickly, as electric vehicle technology accelerates faster than a Polestar with a tailwind.

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Also posted in Cars and Pollution, Economics, Energy, Health, News / Comments are closed

These key policies in Biden’s infrastructure plan can deliver big wins on jobs and climate

This blog was co-authored with Danielle Arostegui, Senior Analyst, U.S. Climate.

This week, President Biden unveiled a far-reaching infrastructure package to build back the economy in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, while protecting existing and future generations from the most severe consequences of climate change and addressing historic inequities in access to clean air and water.

This is the kind of strong leadership we need on the economy and on climate.

The American Jobs Plan is packed full of promising investments that can generate millions of new, good-paying union jobs, revitalize our nation’s aging infrastructure, lessen economic and environmental inequalities and drive progress on our urgent climate goals. In fact, the plan declares “every dollar spent on rebuilding our infrastructure during the Biden administration will be used to prevent, reduce, and withstand the impacts of the climate crisis.”

While Biden’s plan has no shortage of important policies with massive potential to lift up communities from coast to coast—including policies that deliver clean drinking water, quality housing, broadband internet, and more—the proposals aimed at transforming America’s power and transportation sectors are particularly critical for their ability to simultaneously combat climate change while creating a stronger, more equitable clean economy.

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Also posted in Green Jobs, Jobs / Comments are closed

State analysis showcases promising solution to clean up North Carolina’s power sector

North Carolina is up against a climate deadline: In 10 years, the state needs to slash carbon pollution from the power sector 70% below 2005 levels by 2030. This goal, set by an executive order from Gov. Roy Cooper in 2018, will help communities avert the worst climate damages, while moving the state toward a clean energy future.

To determine how the state can achieve this 2030 goal and reach carbon neutrality in the power sector by 2050, the Duke University Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy and UNC Center for Climate, Energy, Environment and Economics undertook a year-long study analyzing options that can help the state’s power sector achieve these targets. It includes detailed power sector modeling of potential policies, including an analysis on joining the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) – a collaboration of 10 Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states working together to reduce climate pollution.

The results of that study, which reflects the input of over 40 stakeholders including EDF, demonstrate that RGGI is one of the most promising and most cost-effective policies for reducing power sector carbon pollution in line with the state’s targets. Here are three key takeaways from the report that illustrate why RGGI is the right policy for achieving North Carolina’s power sector pollution goals:

1. RGGI is the most cost-effective option for reducing carbon dioxide emissions from North Carolina’s power sector. RGGI sets a declining limit and puts a price on carbon pollution, locking in a trajectory of pollution reduction over time and bringing in proceeds that the state can then reinvest towards additional beneficial programs. Since North Carolina would have to develop an investment portfolio specific to the state’s needs, the study evaluated three illustrative scenarios to assess potential benefits of different investment decisions:

  1. RGGI is implemented without re-investing proceeds
  2. RGGI proceeds are all invested in energy efficiency measures
  3. RGGI proceeds are all invested in direct energy bill assistance for ratepayers

Regardless of how proceeds are invested, RGGI showed the lowest cost-per-ton of carbon dioxide reduced. RGGI’s cost-effective approach to reducing emissions also limits electricity rate impacts as RGGI was found to have less impact on retail electricity rates than the other policies evaluated.

The report finds that directing allowance proceeds to energy efficiency provides even more benefits to North Carolina, making it the only standalone policy of those analyzed that produces overall cost savings compared to the business-as-usual (BAU) scenario. These investments also further reduce the policy’s impact on electricity rates, which fall below BAU by 2040. In addition to the potential to generate cost-savings, RGGI with reinvestments in energy efficiency can be a boon to the local economy, creating over 47,000 job-years and increasing GSP by $4.9 billion over the study period.

When proceeds are directly invested in energy bill assistance, the policy reduces residential electricity rates below business-as-usual (BAU) by 2030 and is the only policy option included in the report to do so.

RGGI’s flexible framework allows North Carolina to invest in a range of clean energy measures and programs that directly benefit ratepayers. Although the study looks at two illustrative scenarios that focus investments in energy efficiency or direct bill assistance, the actual investment portfolio can include elements of both, and the state can optimize investments to maximize benefits that ensure a cleaner, healthier, more equitable energy system for North Carolina’s communities.

2. RGGI is fully compatible with other policies like accelerated coal retirements and a clean energy standard. The report finds that combining a clean energy standard (CES) with RGGI not only achieves greater reductions in carbon pollution than the CES does by itself, but does so more cost-effectively. RGGI creates additional savings for ratepayers, while guaranteeing that the state will achieve its pollution reduction targets. By combining RGGI with a CES, the state can reap the benefits of both policies – the CES can encourage in-state deployment of renewable energy resources and the job growth that comes with it, while RGGI secures emission reductions at low cost, generates proceeds for reinvestment, and provides certainty that emissions will fall to the required levels by placing a binding limit on carbon dioxide emissions. RGGI can provide similar benefits when combined with other policies – like accelerating coal retirements.

3. The flexibility of the RGGI framework allows North Carolina to tailor the policy to meet the state’s unique needs while providing certainty in the emissions outcome. The binding limit RGGI sets on carbon pollution ensures the required reductions are achieved and its flexible compliance mechanism allows North Carolina to reduce emissions and reinvest the program’s proceeds in a way that best meets the state’s needs.

With the proceeds from RGGI, North Carolina can invest in programs that support the state’s frontline communities most overburdened by air pollution. The state should work hand-in-hand with these communities to drive investments and complementary policies toward safety, health and equity.

For example, the state could reinvest proceeds to expand air quality monitoring in overburdened areas, provide energy bill assistance for households with lower incomes, and create jobs and economic opportunities through investment in renewable energy and energy efficiency in underserved communities.

RGGI is a critical tool in achieving longer term climate goals. Importantly, the report’s analysis assumed that the RGGI carbon pollution limits would remain flat after 2030. In reality, RGGI limits are expected to decrease beyond 2030, meaning North Carolina would continue to decrease allowable emissions in line with the state’s long-term climate goals, resulting in greater long-term emissions reductions and co-benefits for the state.

North Carolina is on an urgent timeline to achieve its climate goals and needs a proven policy to curb carbon emissions. RGGI provides an opportunity for North Carolina to jumpstart progress on its climate goals in the near term, while still allowing for future legislative action to deliver even further benefits with the adoption of smart clean energy policies. This study underscores that North Carolina can reduce carbon pollution in line with the goals of the Clean Energy Plan. Now Governor Cooper must take action so that North Carolina can lead in the fight against climate change and reap the benefits of a growing clean energy economy, healthier communities, and more equitable and prosperous future.

Read more about the benefits of RGGI in this fact sheet and our previous blog posts on RGGI and its benefits.

Also posted in Cities and states / Comments are closed

A U.S. economy-wide methane target: essential, achievable, affordable

The Biden administration is preparing to announce a new U.S. greenhouse gas emissions target for 2030 under the Paris Agreement — a pledge known as a Nationally Determined Contribution, or NDC — in advance of this year’s United Nations climate talks. Given the last four years of U.S. climate inaction and denial, it is important that the U.S. put forward an ambitious yet credible target and restore its position as a global leader on climate.

Although many countries pledge a single headline target that includes all greenhouse gas emissions, we believe that a complementary methane target is an essential addition that will considerably benefit the climate. Although it would include methane, a combined target is not sufficient to ensure that immediate and strong actions are taken to reduce methane emissions at the extent warranted.

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Also posted in Paris Agreement, Science / Read 2 Responses