In light of the climate change situation, carbon usage needs to be reduced, and there are actions that can be taken at the state-level to make this happen, which Bill Ritter, former governor of Colorado and our partner here at Saving the West, details in this Wall Street Journal article. The actions include having state renewable energy policies that capture federal wind and solar credits, having state-wide efficiency standards for electric and gas utilities, and having state carbon emissions policies.

More details on these three actions:

Our dilemma, then, is to simultaneously chart a path forward that reduces our carbon footprint and provides market certainty for power producers. That dilemma can be resolved in large part through innovation in state policy. As one Western utility CEO said to me:  “Utilities get 90% of their cost recovery from state regulators and only 10% from inside the beltway. If you want to focus on innovative policy, focus at the state level.”

There are three actions every state should be taking right now to provide market certainty in a carbon-constrained future.

First, states have the opportunity to align their renewable energy policies in a way that fully captures federal wind and solar tax credits to save their citizens millions of dollars. In some cases, this could mean extending renewable energy portfolio standards that have expired, or will expire, before 2022.

Second, energy efficiency is the lowest-cost resource across the board, yet only 29 states have an efficiency standard for electric and gas utilities.  Among the states that do, many could nearly double the savings they are already achieving to 2% of retail sales.

Third, as a former governor, I suspect every state would prefer to design and implement their own emissions policy over having one designed for them by the federal government.  States can establish emissions standards that chart their own course to a low-carbon future — one that takes advantage of their individual technology challenges and opportunities.

States that act quickly will not only reduce their energy portfolio risk, they will save their ratepayers a lot of money. The price of utility-scale solar dropped 80% and wind power dropped 60% from 2009 to 2015. In December of 2015, Congress passed a tax package that extended credits for wind until 2020 and solar until 2022. For states that are forward looking, these investments in infrastructure are safe and cost effective, regardless of the outcome of the Clean Power Plan litigation.

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