States Rally Around Renewables

by Daniel Farber

October 29, 2018

Cross-posted from Legal Planet.

The Center for Law, Energy, and the Environment published a survey of state energy policies through 2017. The trend toward renewables has continued in 2018. Even after nearly two years of the Trump presidency, states haven't given up. Instead, they're moving forward aggressively. If anything, Trump seems to have stimulated these states to try even harder.

Here's a quick rundown of what's happened so far in 2018:

  • California mandated that all new homes have solar energy and adopted bold new goals in a statute mandating 100 percent carbon-free electricity by 2045.
     
  • Colorado adopted California's car standards, including greenhouse gas standards.
     
  • Connecticut adopted new laws requiring utilities to get 40 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2030, mandating that the state cut greenhouse gases 45 percent below 2001 levels by 2030, requiring that government-funded coastal projects take into account a projected sea level rise of two feet by 2050.
     
  • Florida, a long-term laggard in solar power, changed its rules to allow long-term leasing of rooftop solar installations to consumers.
     
  • Hawaii passed new legislation that rewards utilities for increasing the use of distributed resources like rooftop solar.
     
  • Illinois regulators approved a pathway to 25 percent renewables by 2025.
     
  • In Massachusetts, the Republican governor signed a renewable energy bill that requires utilities to contract for 1.2 megawatts of onshore renewables and authorizes them to obtain up to 1.6 megawatts of offshore wind.
     
  • New Jersey's governor signed an executive order rejoining the RGGI regional carbon trading system. He also signed new legislation increasing the renewable energy mandate to 35 percent by 2025 and 50 percent by 2030, with special provisions for solar and offshore wind. The law also provides a subsidy for nuclear plants.
     
  • New York committed $1.4 billion to 22 renewable energy projects.
     
  • Virginia's governor vetoed a bill that would have prevented him from using an executive order to rejoin RGGI or create a state emissions trading system.

In another example of independent state action, the Western Governors Association recently passed a bipartisan policy statement related to methane. Bipartisan efforts like this shouldn't be rare, but they seem to be. The statement says that methane is "a potent greenhouse gas emitted from a variety of sources, including oil and gas operations, coal mines, landfills, agriculture, and natural sources." Thus, the statement continues, "[t]here are environmental and economic benefits of reducing methane emissions and opportunities for the beneficial use of this natural resource." Consequently, the statement calls for federal methane regulation to "(1) ensure that the capture, commoditization, and sale of methane is promoted; (2) give states the flexibility to integrate a variety of technologies and tools to achieve methane emission reduction standards; (3) recognize methane emissions reductions that result from existing state regulation of volatile organic compounds; and (4) work with states to ensure the consistent use of a single, clear method of quantifying methane emissions." The Association contains governors of all the western states, including many Republicans.

The news out of D.C. tends to range from bad to worse, except on the ideas where it's more like crazy to crazier. Nevertheless, there are good things happening in other parts of America. Meanwhile, coal plants across the county are continuing to close as Trump searches frantically for some kind of tourniquet to stem the bleeding. But like King Canute yelling orders at the ocean from the shore, he may find it difficult to turn back the tide.

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Also from Daniel Farber

Daniel A. Farber is the Sho Sato Professor of Law and Director of the California Center for Environmental Law and Policy at the University of California, Berkeley.

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