Empower Cities to Take Bold Action
These remarks were delivered to the Washington State Local Government Committee at a Working Session on local government approaches to clean energy on January 10, 2018.
Thank you very much for the opportunity to share my observations about how local government can accelerate clean energy in Washington State. My name is Eileen Quigley and I direct Clean Energy Transition, a Seattle, WA-based organization that works to expedite the transition from fossil fuel to clean energy, focusing on the pathways to a low-carbon economy, urban clean energy, and clean energy economics.
I serve on the Advisory Council of the University of Washington’s Clean Energy Institute, as well as the Board of Stockholm Environment Institute’s US Center and I am an instructor at Western Washington University’s Institute for Energy Studies, where I teach a course on decarbonization.
Before founding Clean Energy Transition, I worked at Climate Solutions for eight years, initially directing its New Energy Cities program, and then as Director of Strategic Innovation, where I oversaw the organization’s programs dedicated to implementing solutions to global warming.
For nearly a decade, I have worked with 29 small- and medium-size communities throughout the Northwest helping them map their sources and uses of energy; analyze the impact of various policies, such as the federal Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards, statewide renewable portfolio standards, and building energy codes, as well as local policies designed to drive carbon emissions down. In Washington, I have worked with Spokane, Wenatchee, Edmonds, Issaquah, Kirkland, Tukwila, Olympia, Everett, Shoreline, as well as Thurston, Clark, and King counties.
I come before you today at a critical juncture in the history of the world and our country. The reality of climate change is undeniable, as is the fact that human beings and industry have caused the world to warm. Yet we are witness to a federal retreat from the modest progress our country has made to date in addressing this dire existential crisis.
The Trump administration has vowed to undo the fuel efficiency standards. My work unequivocally demonstrates how critically important these are to reducing carbon emissions. The Trump administration is proposing anti-competitive subsidies for coal. Propping up the coal industry flies in the face of what we all know we must do to reduce carbon emissions. The Trump Administration aims to repeal the Clean Power Plan, a critically important effort to limit greenhouse gas emissions from power plants.
The unconscionable absence of leadership at the national level has substantially increased the pressure on regions, states, local communities, and citizens to act aggressively and immediately to decrease carbon emissions. It is impossible for me to overstate how critically important it is that the Washington State Legislature take up this matter with the utmost of speed.
While the Trump administration is actively undoing efforts to address climate change, local governments around the country are stepping up to the challenge and doing the hard work of figuring out how to decarbonize their local economies.
My message to you today is that the state needs to give local governments more authority to take the bold action that the climate crisis requires, authority they are ready and willing to assume.
Specifically, I recommend the following:
- Utilities should be permitted to provide incentives for transportation electrification. A critically important aspect of decarbonization, in parallel with cleaning our electricity grid, is electrifying as many aspects of our transportation sector as possible.
- Local governments need the authority to regulate transportation network companies, or ridesharing outfits, such as Uber and Lyft, and specifically to be able to require that these companies’ vehicles and all automated vehicles be electric vehicles.
- Local governments need authority for fuel-switching that is explicitly labeled “carbon reduction” or “carbon mitigation,” which the legislature has identified as for the public benefit, thereby eliminating the risk of running into issues as a Gift of Public Funds.
- Local governments need the authority to create clean energy benefit districts to be used to support clean energy projects. Washington State should support Property-Assessed Clean Energy, otherwise known as PACE, financing for energy efficiency, solar development, and seismic retrofits.
- The state legislates residential housing codes. Local governments should be permitted to adopt their own “stretch” Energy Codes to go beyond the Washington State Residential Code, which will result in buildings achieving higher energy savings. Local governments need to be permitted to ban the use of fossil fuels in new construction and not be restricted from benchmarking building performance on energy efficiency or from using performance scores that assess the way that buildings enable clean energy.
I would be remiss if I restricted my comments to recommendations only for local government action when state climate leadership is crucially needed in the absence of a comprehensive national energy policy. Therefore, I strongly urge that the Washington State Legislature also adopt the following critically important statewide climate policies:
- We must put a price on carbon to send the required market signal to carbon polluting activities.
- We must have a clean fuels standard in this state, as Oregon and California have, to incentivize the development of lower-carbon fuels.
- We must have a zero-emission vehicle mandate to incentivize the market for electric vehicles.
- Washington State must update its statewide greenhouse gas reduction goal set in 2008 and aiming only to attain a 50% reduction of 1990 emissions levels by 2050, which is way below required reduction levels. Washington must achieve as close to a 100% clean electric grid as possible as soon as 2030 and no later than 2040, and as close to zero carbon emissions as possible in all other sectors by 2050.
Again, I thank you very much for the opportunity to appear before you today, and for your interest in helping local governments accelerate clean energy solutions.