NCEL Blog

Clean Energy From Behind the Screen

This is a guest blog written by Baindu Idriss, NCEL’s Climate and Energy Intern. Baindu is a recent Environmental Science and Policy graduate of the University of Maryland, College Park.

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A Recap of NCEL’s Climate and Energy Webinar Series

At NCEL, we aim to respond to the varying inquiries of legislators in the most useful ways possible. Over the course of 2020, NCEL staff solicited feedback from legislators about their topics of interest in climate and energy. The consistent themes across legislator requests included equity and environmental justice, financing, high-impact decarbonization, and jobs. This feedback prompted us to host a series of informative webinars in early 2021 that would serve as a resource for state legislators. 

Solar as a Solution: Making Clean Energy Equitable in Covid-19 Response

In our pilot webinarNCEL teamed up with VoteSolar’s Access & Equity Policy Director, Olivia Nedd, and Regulatory Managing Director, Sachu Constantine. VoteSolar explored ways in which solar can be used as a tool for policymakers to respond to COVID-19, systemic inequality, and climate change simultaneously by designing equitable solar solutions.

Some excellent follow-up resources include the Low-income Solar Policy Guide and VoteSolar’s state-level policy recommendations. The speakers also highlighted leading state programs, including Hawaii’s Green Energy Money Saver (GEMS) financing program, and New Jersey’s Office of Clean Energy Equity bill, SB S2484.

Creative Financing for Climate and Energy Progress

The next webinar looked at one of the biggest challenges in responding to climate change: economics. As clean energy gets cheaper, outdated rate structures continue to keep polluting energy sources on the grid. To make matters worse, states are already feeling the impact of climate change and need to pay for infrastructure improvements. Finance experts Albert Lin, Executive Director at Pearl Street Station Finance, and Dan Nees, Senior Faculty Specialist at the Center for Global Sustainability, described how to make the market work for the climate.

Albert detailed finance strategies for climate mitigation, including utility rate-setting, and fuel adjustment costs. Dan discussed finance strategies for climate adaptation, such as value-added taxing and pay-for-success models. 

States that have already passed legislation that support creative energy financing solutions include Colorado SB19-236, which makes it feasible for local governments to implement securitization, and Maryland SB 457, which authorizes the repayment of bonds and supports local resilience infrastructure projects.

Minimizing Methane: High Impact Decarbonization

NCEL hosted a panel of experts from the United Nations Environment Program to discuss the benefits of reducing methane emissions. Methane is one of the most potent greenhouse gases and accounts for 10% of U.S. emissions. The panel featured the Chief of UNEP Energy and Climate Branch, Mark Radka, and Program Management Officer of the UNEP Energy and Climate Branch, Manfredi Caltagirone. 

By bringing an international perspective, these experts highlighted ways in which states can regulate methane to reduce emissions, improve air quality, save money, and create good jobs. 

Highlighted legislation included CO SB 19-181, which requires the consideration of public health and created a role for local governments in gas regulation, and CA SB 1383, which set targets for reducing short-lived climate pollutants from all sources. Finally, the panel recommended the EDF report and state-specific fact sheets on how reducing methane emissions creates jobs.

A Green Road to Recovery: Clean Energy Jobs and a Just Transition

The final webinar covered ways for policymakers to respond to the current COVID-19 economic crisis by incentivizing quality clean energy jobs and supporting a just transition. Rep. Ann Williams of Illinois kicked it off by discussing her innovative work on the Clean Energy Jobs Act, which creates a pipeline for clean energy jobs targeted towards marginalized communities. NCEL also teamed up with Kevin Lee and Chris Markuson from the Blue Green Alliance, who detailed labor best practices for the transition to a new energy economy. 

The webinar highlighted IL HB804, the Clean Energy Jobs Act, and CO HB 19-1314, which created the Just Transition Office and committee.

A Clean Energy Future Beyond the Screen

Climate and energy policy is a vast and dynamic field. Whether it’s making solar more accessible to low-income residents or tackling methane, states are leading the way. In all of our activities, NCEL strives to be responsive to legislator interests and needs. If you were not able to attend the webinars and your interest is piqued, please reach out to access a recording of each webinar. 

We look forward to seeing the plethora of ways in which state legislators continue to lead on climate and energy.