Bloomberg Philanthropies and the Heising-Simons family today announced the launch of a new Clean Energy Initiative to support state-based solutions that will ensure America has an energy system that is clean, affordable, and reliable. Advances in new energy technologies make it possible to achieve all three goals at once. A stronger, cleaner energy system will also pave the way for improved air quality and help fight the damaging health and economic impacts of climate change. The initiative will provide $48 million in grant funding to a broad range of stakeholders that will accelerate the transition of the U.S. power fleet toward cleaner electricity generation.
The new initiative will bolster collaborative, state-based approaches that encourage utilities to adopt technologies that have only recently become available and affordable. Since 2010, solar energy prices have plummeted by 80 percent, wind energy prices have been cut in half, and the cost of LED lighting has fallen by 80 percent. American consumers stand to benefit from these developments if state policymakers work with utilities to accelerate their adoption – the Clean Energy Initiative will help provide the technical assistance for the transition. More than half of the Bloomberg Philanthropies grant funding will go to support more than two dozen state and local partners, including the Institute for Energy Innovation and the Respiratory Health Association. Additional funds will provide support to national organizations such as the Center for the New Energy Economy, the Environmental Defense Fund, and the Natural Resources Defense Council.
“With the price of clean power falling, and the potential costs of inaction on climate change steadily rising, the work of modernizing America’s power grid is both more feasible and urgent than ever. Pollution from power plants takes a terrible toll on public health, and it’s the biggest contributor to our carbon footprint. But smart investments can reduce it while also strengthening local economies,” saidMichael R. Bloomberg. “These grants will help states meet new federal clean power requirements in ways that save money and lives.”
Mark Heising added, “The science on climate change makes it abundantly clear that carbon pollution poses a deep threat to society, to agriculture, and to nature—and that early action is required to avoid these threats. New technologies ensure that the solutions to climate change can be cost-effective. This initiative is designed to accelerate those solutions.”
The Approach – Technical Support, Research & Advocacy:
The initiative will include analysis to determine grid optimization for different power types, potential for enhanced efficiency and methods to make the grid more robust. This analysis will help identify the biggest opportunities for new technologies and support regulatory strategies that ensure reliable and affordable energy for Americans.
The Clean Energy Initiative will also help states implement the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan, a set of draft rules for reducing carbon pollution from the power sector. Currently, power plants are the largest source of carbon pollution in the U.S., accounting for about 38 percent of all domestic greenhouse gas emissions. Carbon pollution is already causing long-term impacts on the economy, including increasing global temperatures, rising sea levels and more frequent extreme weather patterns. Climate change also exacerbates health risks due to worsening smog, causing a range of respiratory illnesses. The EPA rules that address this pollution source require efforts from every state and every utility. Because the rules allow for a great deal of flexibility, and are customized for each state’s current energy profile, public officials have a chance to take advantage of new clean technologies and save money, even as they cut pollution. The Clean Energy Initiative will help galvanize states to take advantage of this opportunity as they implement the EPA’s Clean Power Plan.
With technical support, research, and advocacy funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies and Heising-Simons family contributions, states will develop their own strategies to limit carbon pollution and ultimately achieve the Clean Power Plan’s aim to cut carbon pollution from the power sector by 30 percent below 2005 levels. This approach will also have public health benefits, including reducing smog pollution by an estimated 25 percent and avoiding up to 150,000 asthma attacks each year.
“Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Clean Energy Initiative is a big step forward for public health,” said Joel Africk, President and CEO of the Respiratory Health Association in Chicago. “Not only will the initiative help cut carbon and curb climate change, it will also result in fewer asthma exacerbations, heart attacks and strokes throughout the US.”
“State and local leaders are on the front lines of transforming the way we produce and use energy,” said Former Colorado Governor Bill Ritter, Jr., now Director of the Center for the New Energy Economy at Colorado State University. “This new initiative is helping to capitalize on this shift and adapt to the new environmental realities and the business opportunities they present.”
A key feature of the Clean Power Plan is that it lets states choose the best combination of energy efficiency, renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power, and improvements in current power plants. The EPA rules and associated state policies have the potential to increase renewable energy production three- to four-fold by 2025, an amount of growth that could power 28 to 41 million homes for a year. Depending on state policy choices, existing efficiency programs also have the potential to grow dramatically, with investments increasing two- to four-fold over the same period. This energy savings is the equivalent to the annual output of 35 to 60 coal plants.
With support from the new Clean Energy Initiative, together these state-based policies could help achieve efficiency savings and renewable energy capacity additions equivalent to the yearly output of 100 to 140 coal plants, or 13 to 17 percent of the total electricity generated by the U.S. fleet. The cumulative reductions in carbon emissions total up to 1.5 to 1.7 billion metric tons, approximately equal to Russia’s total emissions in 2012.
“The power sector is in an exciting period of transformation as we build out the 21st century energy grid—a time of opportunity as states and utilities write the roadmap for a smarter power system that cuts carbon pollution while providing affordable and reliable energy,” saidJim Rogers, Former Chairman and CEO of Duke Energy. “Bloomberg’s Clean Energy Initiative will help power companies get this right, and ultimately that’s good for the consumer.”
“The Clean Energy Initiative taps into the spirit of entrepreneurialism unleashed by new opportunities such as distributed generation, demand response and energy efficiency programs,” said Dan Scripps, President of the Institute for Energy Innovation in Michigan. “As states implement the EPA’s Clean Power Plan over the coming years, they will be able to tap into tremendous opportunities to save consumers money while cutting carbon.”
“Climate change is here and now,” said Rhea Suh, NRDC President. “Tackling this central environmental threat of our time is an enormous task, but it’s also a tremendous opportunity. The Bloomberg Philanthropies and Heising-Simons Clean Energy Initiative will help America reinvigorate our economy and protect future generations from the dangers of climate change.”
“I’m grateful to Bloomberg Philanthropies for its support,” said Environmental Defense Fund President Fred Krupp. “The Clean Energy Initiative will propel smart, cost-effective reduction of carbon pollution from the biggest source, power plant smokestacks. We know how to make affordable clean energy. This initiative will speed the day when turning on a light doesn’t mean dirtier air or a legacy of dangerous climate change for our children.”
ST Staff Writers
This post was prepared by Solar Thermal Magazine staff.