16 february 2016

Coalition of US states pledge to accelerate renewable energy efforts

Bipartisan accord signed by governors of 17 states sets out commitments to expand energy efficiency and use more solar and wind generation for electricity

Oliver Milman, The Guardian, Tuesday 16 February 2016

A bipartisan group of governors from 17 states has pledged to accelerate their efforts to create a green economy in the US by boosting renewables, building better electricity grids and cutting emissions from transport.

An accord signed by the governors states that the US must “embrace a bold vision of the nation’s energy future” by reducing emissions, transitioning to clean energy sources and ensuring that infrastructure isn’t risked by extreme weather events such as floods and wildfires.

The agreement sets out commitments to expand renewable energy and energy efficiency and integrate solar and wind generation into electricity grids. These grids will be “modernized”, the accord states, to improve energy reliability.

Companies that offer electric vehicles or vehicles that run on alternative fuels such as hydrogen or natural gas will be provided incentives and help with infrastructure in the 17 states. New standards and benchmarks for energy efficiency and renewables will also be set.

The governors are from California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Nevada, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Washington. These states are home to around 40% of the US population.

Advisers from the states, which include both Democratic and Republican governors, will meet to set out steps towards meeting these promises.

Jerry Brown, the governor of California, a state that emits around 1% of the world’s greenhouse gases, said the accord builds on his administration’s existing policies, including its goal to reduce petroleum use in cars and trucks by up to 50% within the next 15 years.

“With this agreement, governors from both parties have joined together and committed themselves to a clean energy future,” Brown said. “Our goal is to clean up the air and protect our natural resources.”

Andrew Cuomo, governor of New York, said that the coalition of states can effectively “develop an effective national energy policy to ensure a safer, greener and more sustainable future for all.”

The Republican governor of Nevada, which is set to vote in presidential caucuses for Democratic and Republican candidates in the coming week, said it was important for the state to create jobs in clean energy.

“This bipartisan accord provides a platform for Nevada to leverage new partnerships, gain and share knowledge and an opportunity to introduce our energy advancements to other states,” said Governor Brian Sandoval. “I remain committed to pursue policies that will allow Nevada to continue to lead the nation in renewable energy production, energy conservation, and the exportation of energy.”

Recent figures show that wind and solar accounted for 5.4% of the US’s energy mix last year, up slightly from 2014. Coal, meanwhile, is on a historic slide, accounting for 34% of electricity generation last year, the smallest share since Energy Information Administration records were first kept in 1949.

West Virginia and Kentucky, which have been hit hardest by the decline in coal prices, are projected to continue burning coal. According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, coal would still account for about 24% of electricity use in 2030.

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