No Stay on Clean Power Leadership by the States

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Seventeen state governors, Republicans and Democrats both, yesterday announced a new accord to move ahead together on clean energy solutions. This effort comes despite last week's surprising Supreme Court ruling that puts a temporary pause on President Obama's Clean Power Plan.

"Now is the time to embrace a bold vision of the nation's energy future," said 17 governors who signed a new accord promoting clean energy. (Photo credit: Redi-Rock International, via Flickr.)

Saying that "we recognize that now is the time to embrace a bold vision of the nation's energy future," the governors declared that their states "are once again prepared to lead."

As a New Yorker, I'm proud that Governor Cuomo and New York State are part of this coalition. "From the creation of a $5 billion Clean Energy Fund to implementing our ambitious Clean Energy Standard," Governor Cuomo explained, "New York is fully committed to our role as a national leader in growing the clean tech economy. We are proud to join with other states seeking to achieve the same goal and by working together, we can develop an effective national energy policy to ensure a safer, greener and more sustainable future for all." California's Governor Jerry Brown also heralded the new accord, saying "The whole genius of this accord is we're bringing together parties, governors of different philosophies. Without having to wait for Washington, we out here among the states can accomplish something very important."

The governors who have come together to support clean energy are more than just the usual suspects: included are Republican governors such as Terry E. Branstad of Iowa, Charlie Baker of Massachusetts, Rick Snyder of Michigan, and Brian Sandoval of Nevada. Each of them knows well the growth clean energy can bring to state economies. The bipartisan group of elected leaders from across the country represent states that are home to almost 40 percent of the U.S. population: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington.

Under the unprecedented agreement unveiled yesterday, the governors promised to work together to:

• expand clean energy;

• modernize energy infrastructure;

• encourage clean transportation options;

• share best practices and help each other develop cutting-edge policies and state-level expertise;

• collaborate; and,

• drive lasting changes at the national, as well as the state, level.

Their announcement came one week after the U.S. Supreme Court voted, 5-4, to stay implementation of President Obama's Clean Power Plan, the game-changing initiative that will cut carbon pollution from our country's biggest source, our electric sector, until the litigation challenging the Clean Power Plan is completed. While the stay puts a temporary halt to the CPP implementation process, NRDC is confident that the courts will ultimately uphold the Clean Power Plan.

Indeed, a growing number of governors are already pledging to move forward with the state Clean Power Plan planning process, stay or no stay, because it is the right thing to do for their states' economies and for the public health.

The fact is, there's an unstoppable momentum behind the surge in clean power deployment across the U.S. Thanks in large part to increased investments in energy efficiency, since 2007 energy consumption has fallen by 2.4 percent, while the U.S. economy has grown by 10 percent. Electricity usage has been basically flat since 2007, due largely to growth in utilities' energy efficiency investments and the tightening of efficiency standards for appliances, equipment and buildings.

Wind power grew by an astonishing 65 percent in 2015, even as the cost of wind power continued to plummet. Solar power has seen similar surges, with rooftop photovoltaic solar installations more than doubling between 2012 and 2015, from approximately 4 gigawatts to 11 gigawatts, and larger-scale photovoltaic solar seeing nearly an eightfold increase between 2011 and 2015. (The country had about 2 GW installed in 2011, compared with a total of 15 gigawatts in 2015.) Meanwhile, coal generation fell to 29 percent of U.S. electricity in 2015, its lowest level in decades, largely because of basic economics: Coal can no longer compete in the electricity marketplace.

The 17 governors who signed yesterday's accord are helping realize the American public's strong desire for clean energy. These smart leaders recognize that when it comes to maximizing their states' and the nation's clean energy potential, there's no time like the present. Doing so will create good-paying jobs, make our grid more reliable, and our economies more resilient. It will cut our energy costs, help everyone breathe cleaner air, and help protect all of us against climate change's worst impacts.

By taking action now, these states will be way ahead of the curve when the Clean Power Plan moves forward. It's true that implementation of the Clean Power Plan is on hold for the moment. But as 17 influential governors demonstrated today, clean power itself is moving full steam ahead.