Calif.’s AB32 shows economic benefits of smart energy, climate policies

Published July 31, 2015

Smart climate and energy policies like California's AB32 can help grow the economy while creating jobs. (David Ohmer, Flikr Creative Commons)

Smart climate and energy policies like California’s AB32 can help grow the economy while creating jobs. (David Ohmer, Flikr Creative Commons)

By Zack Ahrens, Mary Solecki, and Rebecca Deehr

In June 2014, President Obama and the Environmental Protection Agency announced they were moving forward with the Clean Power Plan, which will expand clean energy nationwide by setting the first-ever limits on carbon pollution from power plants. Any day now, the plan will be finalized.

The Clean Power Plan’s goals for each West Coast state vary. California’s carbon emission reduction goals are set at 23 percent, with Oregon at 48 percent and Washington at about 71 percent.

Shifting to a clean economy drives economic progress and stimulates job growth. Over the past two years, E2 has documented nearly 250,000 clean energy and clean transportation jobs across the country. And, according to an analysis done by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Americans could save $37.4 billion on utility bill expenses, or roughly 8 percent annually per household, by 2020 under the Clean Power Plan.

California is a leader in creating the kinds of clean energy and emission-reduction programs that, like the Clean Power Plan, help spur job creation. The state has proven that new jobs and cost savings are the return on investment in policy innovation.

In 2014, E2 tracked 7,000 clean energy jobs in California, and another 1,800 in the first quarter of 2015 alone.

Likewise, the Clean Power Plan could create as many as 274,000 jobs nationwide in the energy efficiency sector alone.

For California – which already has strong carbon pollution emissions reduction measures in place with its groundbreaking global warming law AB 32, the Renewable Portfolio Standard and a Carbon trading market – the state would like to have these renewable energy efforts count as part of their federal compliance with the CPP.

Washington’s Clean Power Plan goal is so high partially because the state has only one coal plant and it is slated to be decommissioned by 2025. Those emission reductions will constitute a sizable portion of that 71.6 percent.

Oregon is requesting that the 2012 emissions benchmark be reconsidered for a three-year average.

The battle against climate change is a global one, and the Clean Power Plan sets the United States on a path to be energy resilient. It will be up to states, and for the West Coast as a leader in climate change action, to drive policy change and meet the goals we know we need to meet in order to succeed grow our economy while fighting climate change.

Zack Ahrens is an E2 Fellow in San Francisco and can be reached at Mary Solecki is E2’s Western States Advocate and can be reached at Rebecca Deehr is E2’s Pacific Northwest Advocate and can be reached at