North American West Coast Governments Sign Climate Change Pact

by Silvio Marcacci

Pacific Coast Collaborative logo via Pacific Coast Collaborative
Pacific Coast Collaborative

They say the West Coast is the best coast, and as of today, that’s definitely true in the fight against climate change.

The leaders of British Columbia, California, Oregon, and Washington just formally joined forces to reduce emissions and transition toward renewables by signing the Pacific Coast Action Plan on Climate and Energy, committing to link and maintain their respective climate and renewable energy policies.

This news is significant on multiple fronts, but mainly for the sheer size of its jurisdiction: three US states and one Canadian province that collectively represent 53 million people and a combined gross domestic product of $2.8 trillion – essentially the world’s 5th largest economy and now, the world’s largest green economy.

West Coast-Style Climate Change Action

Today’s agreement is part of the Pacific Coast Collaborative, which includes the four governments plus Alaska, formed to provide a co-operative forum on policy challenges facing the North American West Coast like clean energy, transportation, economic growth, and emergency management.

The four jurisdictions will account for the costs of carbon pollution and when feasible, link their respective clean energy programs to create a stable policy outlook to encourage investment. The plan also commits to adopting and maintaining low-carbon fuel standards across all jurisdictions, and pledges to work toward additional linkages across other North American states and provinces.

“This Action Plan represents the best of what Pacific Coast governments are already doing and calls on each of us to do more together to create jobs by leading in the clean energy economy,” said Washington Governor Jay Inslee.

California’s cap-and-trade system has sold out of all available current permits in each of its four allowance auctions and will link to Quebec’s carbon market on January 1, 2014. British Columbia has maintained a C$30/ton carbon tax for the past five years while working toward a 33% emissions reduction by 2020 goal.

Both governments will maintain their existing programs, and Oregon and Washington have now committed to explore similar policies. Those emissions reductions goals and mechanisms are yet to be determined, but Inslee has said he supports a cap-and-trade system in Washington while Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber has called for a price on carbon.

Under the action plan, the jurisdictions agreed to harmonize their 2050 emissions reduction goals while developing shorter-term targets in the interim – certainly a requisite first step toward any kind of larger linkage, but still a long way off considering formal emissions reduction policies would likely require statewide ballot approval.

Toward Green Economies And Global Emissions Cuts

Regardless, today’s action shows the kind of political action that happens when climate policy turns into green jobs. “We are already seeing how our commitment to clean energy is changing the face and fortune of our state, accounting for $5 billion in economic activity and 58,000 jobs,” said Kitzhaber. “Transitioning to a clean economy creates jobs.”

And the West Coast’s climate action could soon have international repercussions. All four signatories said they would work with other national and sub-national governments to secure a global climate change agreement in 2015. With 60 carbon pricing systems either in operation or under development around the world, today’s action could be the biggest sign yet of a truly international carbon market.

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This article, North American West Coast Governments Sign Climate Change Pact, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.

About the Author

Silvio Marcacci Silvio is Principal at Marcacci Communications, a full-service clean energy and climate-focused public relations company based in Washington, D.C.

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Jerry Brown Signs AB 327 Bill

by Roy L. Hales

Jerry Brown signs AB 327 Bill
Jerry Brown signs AB 327 Bill. Photo courtesy of: SolarCity

Originally published on San Diego Loves Green

Governor Brown has signed AB 327. Despite the initial solar vs. utilities flare-up, the final version of AB 327 was something that most parties on both sides could agree on.

One of the passages that many found offensive – authorization for the CPUC to approve a flat rate of up to $10 on all residential customers of California’s biggest utilities, regardless of whether they draw that much power from the grid – remains.

The CPUC now has to determine a compensation structure for people whose solar feeds the grid and there are many who argue that the terms of their investments should not be changed mid-stream.

According to Arturo Carmona, Executive Director of the Latino group Presente.org, “The debate now shifts to the Public Utilities Commission where implementation of key portions of the bill, including the fees will be decided on. It will be important that the public does not lose sight of the big utility lobby’s true motivations. These charges have always been more about putting billions of dollars into the pockets of the big utility companies rather than anything else. The new charges stand to affect low-income communities who are already struggling to pay their bills and those that are already doing their part to conserve energy. California’s solar jobs, energy savings, and the state’s entire clean energy economy are all at stake.”

Yet, as a spokesperson for The Alliance for Solar Choice (TASC) told San Diego Loves Green, “The landmark bill that will provide much-needed stability for California’s rooftop solar industry.”

AB 327 achieves the following:

  • Removes the suspension on net metering that would have gone into effect at the end of year.
  • Eliminates uncertainly over how the current net metering cap is calculated.
  • Provides a framework for removing the net metering cap altogether.
  • Removes the 33% ceiling on the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard.”

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Governor Jerry Brown
Governor Jerry Brown

Before Governor Brown signed this legislation, he wrote a letter to the Members of the California State Assembly stating;

“I am signing Assembly Bill 327.

“This comprehensive rate reform legislation provides the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) with the necessary Authority to address current electricity rate inequities, protect low-income energy users and maintain robust incentives for renewable energy investments.

“Specifically, the bill gives the CPUC the authority to craft a new electricity rate structure while increasing statutory discounts for qualified low-income customers. It also requires the electric utilities to develop distribution infrastructure plans to ensure that ratepayer dollars are being utilized in the most efficient way possible. Finally the bill makes it clear that California’s 33% Renewable Portfolio Standard is a floor, not a ceiling.

“As the CPUC considers rules regarding grandfathering of net meter customers, I expect the Commission to ensure that customers who took service under net metering prior to reaching the statutory net metering cap on or before July 1, 2017, are protected under those rules for the expected life of their systems.”

Screen shot 2013-10-07 at 5.44.54 PM

There still appears to be some concern about the impact of AB 327 and it will undoubtedly not be too long before the utility companies impose the $10 a month flat rate this legislation allows, but the solar industries comments about this legislation now sound favourable:

SEIA President and CEO Rhone Resch applauded, “SEIA applauds Gov. Brown for his unwavering commitment to clean energy. His efforts to reduce carbon emissions across California will have a positive and profound impact on the state’s future.  This law provides a clear pathway for the continued growth of solar generation in California, which ranks #1 in the nation in total installed solar capacity with 3,761 megawatts (MW) – three times more than any other state. What’s more, solar now provides nearly 44,000 good-paying jobs across the state, while saving money for hundreds of thousands of Californians on their utility bills. Gov. Brown should be congratulated for recognizing the importance of clean solar energy to both California’s economy and its environment.”

“What AB 327 does is removes the net metering cap that would have inhibited many Californians from realizing the inherent economic benefits of harnessing power from the sun as a means to improve properties, slash energy costs and create a hedge against inevitable utility bill increases.

This is an important day for the solar industry, and for the home and business owners we serve.” — Dave Steele of PURE Solar Power.

“From a business perspective, this allows the state’s solar contractors to be confident with long-range planning for their businesses.  Now we know the incentives surrounding solar energy won’t be denied to property owners.  This gives solar companies like mine more confidence in the long-range planning for our business, i.e. forecasting employee hires and growth opportunities, which in turn contributes to the health and sustainability of the industry,” said Pekka Laine, President of Photon Solar Power, Inc..

But the best explanation of AB 327 came from Terri Steele of Figtree PACE, who emailed me, ”Can you feel that breeze, Roy?  It’s the entire solar industry in California breathing a sigh of RELIEF!!”

This article, Jerry Brown Signs AB 327 Bill, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.