Getting From Here to There: California Thinks Beyond 2020

rp_erica-morehouse-287x377-228x30011.jpgHollywood produces some duds, especially right after the end of Oscar season. But virtually all of the environmental scriptwriting that happens in the Golden State has four-star appeal. Californians are trailblazers in protecting the environment and our planet from harm. The state debuted the first-ever vehicle efficiency standards in the 1960s and building efficiency standards in the 1970s and government leaders haven’t slowed down since.

Today Californians find themselves ahead of schedule on meeting ambitious 2020 climate pollution goals. The state’s top leaders, from the Governor to the Legislature, are discussing ways to solidify targets, for 2030 and beyond, that would dramatically cut pollution and create a powerful script about public health and prosperity that other states could emulate.

As is fitting for deliberations involving our state’s future, these discussions are built on what could be thought of as “the dirty work” – careful research and planning, and sound analysis. California government leaders have released research they commissioned that analyzes the potential pathways for getting to a lower-carbon future. The research shows that we have the technical know-how to achieve ambitious targets for pollution reduction by 2030 while ensuring robust economic growth.

Clean Technology Transition is Achievable and Affordable

The state-commissioned research was conducted by the economic consulting firm E3 using their model depicting the major sectors (buildings, industry, transportation, and electricity)that contribute to climate pollution in California, with a focus on what happens as infrastructure ages and is replaced. The model tabulates the potential savings and costs from transitioning to clean energy technologies, but does not factor in other substantial benefits of the clean energy economy, including job growth and improved health outcomes.

One of the largest areas of savings that emerges from the research is that replacing old energy technology and upgrading buildings to new, cleaner options could potentially save California $4 billion by 2030. The model also shows Californians getting significant savings in how much they pay for petroleum as they use less of it. Residents will also see savings as buildings become more efficient. Electricity costs are projected to go up slightly as we invest in renewable generation and as a larger part of energy needs are met with electricity (i.e. for electric cars or home heating). For example, the model shows the possibility that households could see a small net cost increase (around $8 per month) by 2030 with clean energy upgrades.

Even more Economic and Health Benefits Likely

Our review of the research concludes that benefits to jobs, the economy, and health outcomes from environmental policies can often dwarf the primary intended targets for these policies, i.e., pollution reduction. EDF has shown that two of California’s major transportation policies can lead to over $23 billion in health, climate change, and energy security benefits by 2025. Dr. David Roland Holst of Berkeley has shown that $16 of economic benefit is created for every dollar that is saved on gasoline. New England’s RGGI cap-and-trade program for electricity invested over $900 million in cap-and-trade proceeds mostly in energy efficiency measures to create net benefits of $1.6 billion for the economy, over $700 million of which are “indirect benefits” not captured by the E3 model.

California’s elected leaders seem to grasp that we’ve reached a critical moment to lock-in long-term benefits and to positively influence action outside California. It’s too early to tell exactly where California’s post-2020 script will take us, but the E3 research gives us a hopeful glimpse into the clean energy future.

This entry was posted in California. Bookmark the permalink. Trackbacks are closed, but you can post a comment.

Post a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.