But as Fast Company has written before, the emissions reductions laid out under the Clean Power Plan are already underway, and the directive from Virginia, says Jordan Stutt, a policy analyst at the clean-energy research nonprofit Acadia Center, “is the first domino in what will be a series of states moving to adopt clean energy policies.”
In issuing the directive to Virginia’s DEQ, McAuliffe instructed that his state’s proposal to limit energy-sector emissions should fall in line with those already in place across the country, and is looking specifically to California and a coalition of nine East Coast states united under the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), both of which have successfully implemented cap-and-trade policies to curb carbon dioxide emissions. Stutt says that while cap-and-trade policy implementation has been slow to spread beyond California and the RGGI (pronounced “Reggie”) states, and now Virginia, “the conversation is getting louder.” Following Obama’s introduction of the Clean Power Plan two years ago, “the whole country began preparing to comply with the standards, and most states were looking at how a RGGI model–a cap-and-trade model–might work in their state,” Stutt says.
“States are looking to these programs; they don’t want to be missing out on all the benefits the RGGI states and California have been seeing for revenue to be reinvested in clean energy initiatives and infrastructure needs,” Stutt says.
While cap-and-trade has proven effective in the RGGI states and California, and it’s likely to be the model that Virginia pursues (Stutt met with legislators in the state as far back as two years ago, as they were gauging the possibility of Virginia becoming part of RGGI), NextGen Climate founder and philanthropist Tom Steyer–who has considered running for governor of California–tells Fast Company that “there is no one magic bullet” that will dictate how states drive clean energy policies going forward. “The unending increase in the efficiency and effectiveness of technology is driving down the cost of renewable energy sources like wind and solar dramatically,” Steyer says. Unlike coal, whose price continues to rise as its supply constricts, renewable generation can proliferate with no harm to society, and states on both sides of the political divide are responding to the favorable market conditions.
While currently, those states most aggressively pursuing cap-and-trade and other carbon-reduction policies are blue states, both Kiely and Stutt emphasize that support for clean energy policies extends across political divides. RGGI was proposed by a Republican, former New York governor George E. Pataki, and John Kasich, the Republican governor of Ohio, vetoed an attempt by the state legislature in December to make the state’s renewable energy standards voluntary, saying to roll back the renewable energy policy would hurt Ohio’s economy (the legislature is continuing to fight the veto). And some of the strongest supporters of wind energy come from states like Iowa and Texas, where the availability of natural resources has driven the cost of renewables down. In Iowa, the cost is so dramatically lower that to do anything other than integrate wind into the energy landscape would put the state at an economic disadvantage–and powerful Iowa Republican Senator Chuck Grassley is strongly in support of increasing the amount of wind power the state produces.
Read the full article from Fast Company here.