America’s Green New Deal is going to happen at state, not federal level

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From pv magazine USA.

The push for a Green New Deal led by charismatic U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez may be media gold, and the highest-profile push for rapid decarbonization of the electricity supply, but the real policy action is already happening elsewhere.

The main obstacle to Ocasio-Cortez’ call for 100% renewable energy by 2030 is the combination of a Republican majority in the Senate and the regressive position of the Democratic Party leadership on climate issues – the latter exemplified by the party’s appointment of coal-state senator Joe Manchin, of West Virginia, to the party’s leading position on the energy and natural resources committee. Such hurdles mean the Green Energy New Deal bill sponsored by Ocasio-Cortez and Ed Markey is unlikely to go any further than an earlier push by Markey and Henry Waxman did.

Policies to rapidly decarbonize electricity are much more likely to get enacted at state level, and that is especially true after November’s mid-term elections, when five governors were elected who promised policies to replace all, or almost all fossil fuel-fired electricity generation with renewables.

In recent weeks, bills have been introduced in at least six states which would set ambitious increases to renewable portfolio standards (RPS’) and put those states on a path to 80%-100% clean electricity by no later than 2050.

Here are the six bills in question.

Minnesota100% “carbon free” by 2045/2050

Minnesota’s House File 700 would extend the state’s RPS to 80% by 2035 – 85% by 2035 for utilities that own nuclear power plants – up from the current 26.5% by 2025 and 31.5% by 2020 for nuclear operator Xcel. It would require utilities to source all their electricity from “carbon-free” resources by 2050 – 2045 for those with nuclear.

This bill has a strong likelihood of passing as it already has the support of no fewer than 35 members of the state’s legislature who have signed as co-authors.

Details:

  • Bill number: HF 700
  • Date introduced: Monday
  • Sponsors: U.S. Representative Jamie Long and Senator Nick Frentz (both Democrat)
  • Status: Before the Energy and Climate Finance and Policy division
  • Latest action: Hearing held on Tuesday
  • Bill text

New Mexico: 80% renewable by 2045

Twin bills have been introduced in the New Mexico legislature to extend the state’s RPS to 50% by 2030 and 80% by 2045, from the current 20% by next year. As the state has a newly minted Democratic Party trifecta in the House, Senate and governor’s mansion, the odds of these bills passing are better than before.

  • Bill numbers: HB 283/SB 275
  • Date introduced: January 21
  • Sponsors: Senator Mimi Steward, Representatives Nathan Small, Senator William Soules and Elizabeth Stefanics (all Democrat)
  • Status: Before the house environment and natural resources committee and the senate conservation committee
  • Bill text: (House) (Senate)

Massachusetts: 100% by 2045

Massachusetts, technically, already has a 100% renewable energy mandate but the 2090 timeframe makes it rather absurd. Companion bills introduced in the Massachusetts House and Senate would set a 100% by 2045 mandate, and have attracted more than 100 co-signatories. However, these bills must get through the Massachusetts House of Representatives which, under the leadership of Democrat speaker Robert DeLeo, has been where clean energy reforms go to either die or become so weak there is little difference.

  • Bills: SD 1625, HD 3092
  • Sponsors: Senator James Eldridge, Representatives Marjorie Decker and Sean Garballey (all Democrat)
  • Bill text (House) (Senate)

Illinois: 40% renewables by 2030

Illinois’ Path to 100 Act extends the state’s RPS to 40% by 2030, from the current 25% by 2026. According to the bill’s proponents, that would mean 6 GW of new large-scale solar, 6.5 GW of wind, and 7.5 GW of residential, commercial and community-scale PV.

Illinois has seven nuclear power plants with a combined 12 GW of capacity which supplied enough power to meet around two-thirds of the state’s demand last year. If Illinois reaches 40% renewable energy by 2030 and keeps its reactors online, that should enable the state to get all of its electricity from zero-carbon sources and export the rest.

While a press release was issued declaring Democrat Representative Will Davis had announced the legislation, there was no bill with this title on file in the Illinois General Assembly so, as such, we have not been able to confirm details.

Bill advocates’ website

Virginia: 80% renewable energy by 2027

Virginia’s House Bill 2500 would implement an 80% renewable energy mandate by 2027. By contrast with the other four states with legislation proposing ambitious renewable energy standards, Virginia has no mandatory policy, but last year passed a bill that declared installing 5 GW of wind and solar is “in the public interest”.

  • Bill number: HB 2500
  • Introduced: January 9
  • Bill text

New York: 100% by 2030

AO 3565 would require the state to reach 100% renewable energy by 2030, with interim targets of 40% by 2022 and 70% by 2027. The bill does not include nuclear, which would mean two upstate nuclear plants would need to close, as well as the Indian Point nuclear plant, which is phased to retire in 2020-2021.

This bill is even more ambitious than the targets governor Andrew Cuomo has announced, and has the support of 30 co-sponsors and multi-sponsors.

  • Bill number: AO 3565
  • Introduced: January 29
  • Sponsor: William Colton (Democrat, Brooklyn)
  • Latest action: Referred to the Assembly’s energy committee
  • Bill text

Currently, only four states plus Washington D.C. have standards requiring 75% or more clean energy in their electricity supply: California (100% clean energy by 2045), Hawaii (100% renewables by 2045) and Vermont (75% by 2032). Massachusetts technically falls within that group, but with the aforementioned 2090 timeframe for decarbonization.

On January 18, Washington D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser signed into law a 100% by 2032 renewable energy mandate which will super-charge solar in the nation’s capital.

And these may not be the only state-level jurisdictions to move to rapid decarbonization, as Democrat governors Jay Inslee (Washington), Jared Polis (Colorado) and Janet Mills (Maine) have also articulated plans to move their states to clean energy.

Correction: This article was corrected at 10:45 AM EST on 07/02/19 to include the 100% renewable energy legislation introduced in Massachusetts, as the sixth state known to pv magazine USA with active legislation for rapid decarbonization.

Editor’s note: Much of the research in this article was carried out using Advanced Energy Economy’s PowerSuite tool, which allows users to search legislation and regulatory dockets in all 50 U.S. states plus Washington D.C. For more information, see the PowerSuite site.

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