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State-Level Energy Initiatives are Helping Advance the Green New Deal

In our exploration of the “Green New Deal” and its impacts on the alternative energy industry, we examined how the environmental and economic components of the ambitious plan, proposed by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, would greatly enhance efforts to slow climate change and create new green jobs. The idea has rallied many Democrats behind a federal environmental policy that has quickly become a litmus test for representatives and candidates, including those eyeing the presidency in 2020.

It’s galvanizing for those of us who have worked for years in alternative energy technology, design, and implementation to hear politicians at the highest levels of government prioritizing our work, creating opportunities for broader discussions, and signalling their commitment to environmental action. However, many leaders at the state level have been working to implement policies similar to the Green New Deal over the past several years. Their efforts, and the results, are helping advance federal policy-making regarding the environmental and economic benefits of alternative energy.

Let’s take a look at some of the state-level initiatives that give us hope for the success of a Green New Deal:

New York Leaps Forward

In New York state, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced his own Green New Deal this January. As GreenTech Media reports, the plan aims “to achieve 100 percent carbon-free electricity by 2040, and ultimately eliminate the state’s carbon footprint.” An update to the state’s previous energy plans, it sets ambitious goals involving the New York Power Authority (NYPA), the nation’s largest public power organization. Progress in New York foreshadows how both public and private utilities must cooperate with lawmakers and the alternative energy industry in order to achieve these new goals.

NYPA has announced its plans to invest in large-scale renewable energy with “a 20-year power-purchase agreement for 290 megawatts of wind” that will create an estimated “140 construction jobs, 300 indirect positions and around $2.5 million a year in tax payments.” Offshore wind energy is on the agenda as well, with the deployment of data collection technology in the near future informing decisions about placement and design.

In alignment with Cuomo’s Green New Deal for New York state, Con Edison has announced its plans for a $484 million rate-based investment in energy infrastructure, including charging ports for electric vehicles and energy storage installations. That utility companies, which have fought energy progress for decades, are getting involved as a result of state-level policies is a sign that real forward motion is being made.

California Sets an Example

On the west coast, California’s new Governor Gavin Newsom is continuing the work of his predecessor to meet climate goals that include eliminating carbon emissions by 2045. Long a stronghold for progressive environmental policy, California’s example now includes eliminating some tax revenue sharing for municipalities that contribute to suburban sprawl instead of increasing density of housing in areas with public transportation options.

Grist reports that Newsom also plans to reinstate the Healthy Soils Initiative, which includes soil conservation practices and “techniques to get farmland to soak up carbon from the air.” They note that the Governor will need the cooperation of state legislators to turn these ideas into policy, but that his priorities will shape the upcoming legislative session. California’s example shows that we need passionate leaders like Newsom to continually demand progress if ambitious proposals like the Green New Deal are to be successful.

Other States Join the Movement

While states like New York and California have long been on the front lines of progressive climate policy, they aren’t alone. The New York Times writes that “midterm elections in the fall brought in a new wave of governors who are now setting climate goals for their states and laying out more ambitious plans to cut emissions and expand low-carbon energy” in states like Michigan, Illinois, and New Mexico. “By advancing technologies like wind, solar or electric vehicles,” these states “pave the way for more ambitious federal action.”

State-level initiatives across the country include requiring utilities to use and invest in more renewable power sources, lowering or eliminating carbon dioxide emissions, and creating carbon pricing markets. As the national conversation around environmental and economic policy evolves, educators and activists are focusing on the states to create progress and build support for new federal policy.

From New York to California and everywhere in between, state-level policies are giving us a taste of what a national Green New Deal could mean. At Solar Design Studio, we’re excited to be part of the conversation. If you have your own renewable energy goals for your home or business, reach out to us today to learn more about how we can work together to achieve them.

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