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Climate Policies in CA Offer Roadmap for EPA Carbon Rule

walker, derek, edfYou’ve heard it before: As California goes, so goes the nation.

So as states try to get their arms around the US Environmental Protection Agency’s new Clean Power Plan, we can look to California for some helpful pointers.

Granted, there are many roads to follow and for this journey, states are very much in the driver’s seat. They choose how to best reduce carbon pollution from their power plant by 30 percent over the next 15 years – as long as they can show EPA they’ll get there.

As usual, however, California got off to a head start. The Golden State blazed new trails years ago and left a number of clues on how states can transition to a lower carbon future.

California’s successes are one proven, potential model for other states to follow. The state’s legacy of clean energy and energy efficiency progress is also a big reason the White House and EPA could roll out the most significant national climate change action in our nation’s history.

A 40-year head start

Back in the mid-1970s, when Gov. Jerry Brown did his first tour of duty, California pioneered what remains one of the most effective tools for cutting pollution and saving money: energy efficiency.

The state’s efficiency standards, largely aimed at buildings and appliances, have saved Californians $74 billion and avoided the construction of more than 30 power plants.

Those energy savings have, in turn, translated into residential electricity bills that are now 25 percent lower than the national average. What’s more, California produces twice as much economic output per kilowatt hour of electricity usage as the national average.

Climate policies brought results

While energy efficiency has done yeoman’s work pulling costs down, reducing the need for dirty energy, and supercharging the state’s clean energy economy, California has also pioneered bold approaches for cleaning up its power supply.

  • The California Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) requires 33 percent of all electricity sold in the state to come from renewable sources by 2020, the most aggressive plan that any of the 29 states with RPS measures on the books has adopted.
  • In 2006, California enacted Senate Bill 1368, a groundbreaking law that set the nation’s first greenhouse gas emissions standard for power plants. It was a forerunner of EPA’s Clean Power Plan.
  • Also in 2006, the Global Warming Solutions Act (AB 32) instituted a statewide limit on greenhouse gas emissions, requiring California to return to 1990 levels by 2020.
  • Power plants are capped under AB 32’s successful cap-and-trade program, another precedent for the EPA plan. 

California’s robust suite of policies resulted in a 16-percent drop in carbon pollution from in-state and imported electricity between 2005 and 2012.

Californians are on board

Given this track record, it’s no surprise that Californians strongly support pollution limits on power plants. According to a  2013 survey by the Public Policy Institute of California, 76 percent of Californians support “stricter emissions limits on power plants.”

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3 thoughts on “Climate Policies in CA Offer Roadmap for EPA Carbon Rule

  1. It seems to me we should seek solutions on energy usage in the form of 1) efficiency 2) conservation 3) renewable, green sourcing.

    To me, conservation is undervalued. Like efficiency, conservation seeks to provide us the means to maintain our comfort and standard of living BUT WITH LESS ENERGY REQUIRED. Despite its allure, green energy helps support whatever demands are on the grid. Thus, if the neighbor leaves the lights on 24/7, green supports that. If we allow our buildings to heat via solar gain and expect air conditioning to overcome the discomfort, green supports that just like more efficient power stations support it. Conservation and energy efficiency would support a more informed analysis leading to solutions not requiring so much energy in the first place. As an example, in the Sunbelt, we see solar screens or grates on the outside of windows to reduce solar gain. We might wonder why we don’t see more of that (nation wide) if the thirst for less energy consumption is for real.

  2. Well steve, in case you missed them in the above article, some reasons why other states might want to emulate CA actions in this area include:
    1) “The state’s efficiency standards, largely aimed at buildings and appliances, have saved Californians $74 billion and avoided the construction of more than 30 power plants.”
    2) “Those energy savings have, in turn, translated into residential electricity bills that are now 25 percent lower than the national average.”
    3) “California’s successes are one proven, potential model for other states to follow.”
    4) “California produces twice as much economic output per kilowatt hour of electricity usage as the national average.”
    Don’t know whether you are anti-efficiency or just anti-CA, but I thought it was worth emphasizing these positive CA energy efficiency outcomes…

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