Two issues that greatly concern the US power sector—grid capability and carbon reduction needs—have just gained attention with a $48 million Clean Energy Initiative from Bloomberg Philanthropies and the Heising-Simons family. The organizations announced the initiative on Wednesday. It will advance state-created clean energy solutions by funding a broad range of local, state, and national energy stakeholders.
Some Americans, but nowhere near enough, are aware that since 2010, solar energy prices have sunk by 80%, wind energy prices have been cut in half, and LED lighting costs have dropped by a factor of five. US consumers will benefit most from these developments if our policymakers can team readily with our utilities to speed the process along. The grantors created the Clean Energy Initiative to help provide technical assistance needed to ease and speed useful transitions.
Because leadership in clean energy has resulted from many efforts below the federal level, more than half of the new funding will support over two dozen state and local partners (including the Institute for Energy Innovation and the Respiratory Health Association) in helping utilities establish advanced and “smart” technologies. Their work will highlight the greatest opportunities for new tech and will support useful regulatory strategies.
Traditional power plants, which account for about 38% of all domestic greenhouse gas emissions, are the largest single source of carbon pollution in the US. The harmful substances they release into the atmosphere pose deep threats to both nature and life as we know it. The environmental degradation they cause has already initiated long-lasting economic damage by increasing global temperatures, sea levels, and extreme weather. It also worsens respiratory and other illnesses. As recent media portrayals have shown, climate change may lead to even more nightmarish realities.
The Clean Energy Initiative will accelerate the US power industry’s transition toward less harmful, more affordable electricity. The new grants will help upgrade the nation’s existing electric grid, optimize it for individual and multiple power types, enhance both its efficiency and its robustness through solutions like distributed generation, demand response, and increased energy efficiency, and help implement state policies and the Environmental Protection Agency’s new and proposed climate-related guidelines.
EPA aims to cut carbon pollution from the power sector by 30% below 2005 levels. Its rules and associated state policies “may 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,” the Bloomberg organization says.
“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,” says Dan Scripps, President of the Institute for Energy Innovation in Michigan. Both power generators and states will find it easier to meet EPA standards. Also, a stronger, cleaner energy system will improve our air quality and public health and minimize the harsh economic impacts of climate change.
Mike Bloomberg, former mayor of New York City, adds:
“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. These grants will help states meet new federal clean power requirements in ways that save money and lives.”
Additional funds will provide support for national organizations such as the Center for the New Energy Economy, the Environmental Defense Fund, and the Natural Resources Defense Council. State-based policies supported by the Clean Energy Initiative could up efficiency savings and renewables to the yearly output of 100 to 140 coal plants, or 13% to 17% of the total electricity generated by the U.S. utility fleet. Cumulative reductions in carbon emissions come to 1.5 to 1.7 billion metric tons.
“Bloomberg’s Clean Energy Initiative will help power companies get this right,” says Jim Rogers, Former Chairman and CEO of Duke Energy. “Ultimately, that’s good for the consumer.” Environmental Defense Fund President Fred Krupp adds, “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.”
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