Energy Innovation’s take on how to accomplish a Green New Deal
Following a year in which U.S. carbon emissions from energy rose, after years of declines, Green New Deal (GND) proponents are calling for a plan to convert 100% of the electricity supply to renewable energy, among other decarbonization initiatives.
The big picture: Although a massive undertaking, this energy transition is technologically feasible and economically beneficial. Some policies that would help kickstart the necessary emissions reductions are already being implemented in the U.S., Germany, China and other countries.
How it works: 100% clean energy would require strong federal, regional and state policy.
- A federal renewable portfolio standard like California’s, which sets a specific procurement target for renewable-generated electricity, or a federal feed-in tariff like Germany’s or China’s, which pays a guaranteed price for energy produced by renewables, could both drive renewables investment.
- A federal carbon price that increases over time could link with existing regional carbon markets in California and the Northeast to decarbonize the grid and generate clean-energy investment by auctioning emissions permits to polluters.
- New federal and regional complementary power-sector policies, like performance-based regulation, to incentivize utilities to meet decarbonization goals; competitive power markets to reward the cheapest power sources; and better planning and incentives to increase grid flexibility through new transmission lines, energy storage, and better integration of customer electricity demand into grid operations.
- Federal and state officials would need to empower utilities to retire fossil-fuel power plants with policies like the coal plant refinancing legislation proposed in Colorado.
Be smart: A Green New Deal would require upfront investment, but could pay dividends in energy savings and job growth.
- Building new renewable plants is cheaper than operating existing coal ones in much of the country, and utilities are closing coal plants ahead of schedule to invest in wind, solar, and energy storage. This economic evolution makes replacing coal with clean energy more affordable than in the past.
- More than 3 million Americans already work in clean energy, and solar installers and wind technicians are the two fastest-growing U.S. occupations. These jobs can’t be outsourced, are often accessible with only a high school or technical degree, and are often located in rural communities.
What to watch: California and Hawaii are already targeting 100% clean energy, and the governors of nine other states have pledged to do the same. These states will provide planning and implementation policy lessons, and can inform policy proposals from 2020 presidential contenders who endorse the proposal.
Robbie Orvis is the director of energy policy design at Energy Innovation.
McKinsey argues for a “planned and efficient” economy and transportation system: How the future of commuting could cut emissions & travel time
Why it matters: Uber and other companies are already changing the way people move around in cities, while AVs are poised to shake things up even further as the tech takes hold. But right now traffic is still getting worse for all kinds of reasons.
What they did: The report looks at 3 trajectories for how urban traffic and transport patterns could evolve, and what that means for the environment (among other things).
- The best outcome, but hardly a foregone conclusion, is what they call “seamless mobility.” This is reflected in the third bar in the chart above.
- “In such an environment, the boundaries among private, shared, and public transport would be blurred, and travelers would have a variety of clean, cheap, and flexible ways to get from point A to point B,” they write.
- Under that scenario, traffic could rise by 30% yet travel times could still fall. And, if AVs are electric, urban emissions from transportation could fall by 85%.
In essence, under “seamless mobility,” they see people traveling farther per year than under their other scenarios, yet more efficiently and cleanly.
But, but, but: That won’t happen by itself, the report shows. If cities don’t act, “the trends related to urbanization, population, and e-commerce are likely to make congestion and pollution worse.”
- Under a “business as usual” approach in which transport demand swells with populations and there’s little policy innovation, urban transport demand rises by another 15% in 2030, emissions “could rise proportionally” and travel time grows.
- Under the “unconstrained autonomy” scenario, where AV tech advances but policymakers hang back, there are still advantages. Use of shared AV robotaxis rises, private car ownership falls and emissions could improve — depending on how much of the fleet is electric. But travel times still rise and congestion might get worse.
What’s next: The report lays out dozens of ways for cities to help manage the rise of autonomy and growing populations, including…
- Deploying autonomous tech to trains to speed them up and carry more people.
- Working with state and federal officials on AV rules.
- Using “smart parking” tech.
- Shifting commercial deliveries to off-peak hours.
- Scaling electric scooters and bikes to connect to mass transit.
“One tool that cities can use to encourage the use of EVs is the creation of low- or zero-emissions zones,” while other steps include a push to electrify fleet and government vehicles.