Minnesota just passed a 100% clean electricity bill with one of the country’s fastest timelines to make the switch—by 2040. With its rich wind resources, a surprising amount of solar, and a strong clean energy manufacturing base, this policy will ensure the North Star state leads the nation in well-paying clean energy jobs.
As newly elected climate champions take their seats in state houses and governor’s offices nationwide, many are considering bold climate and clean energy policies, some as ambitious Minnesota.
But where do they start?
New research using the Energy Policy Simulator (EPS) modeling tool from Energy Innovation Policy & Technology® and RMI identifies five climate and clean energy policies to cut dangerous carbon emissions, strengthen local economies, and improve public health—regardless of the state.
Energy Innovation® and RMI have launched EPS models for each of the contiguous 48 states, using the models to uncover the most impactful climate policies for state policymakers to consider.
By looking at Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin—states with greatly different economies and emissions sources—the modelers found just five policies can slash climate pollution by at least 50% and up to as much as 90% by 2050, while creating thousands of jobs and saving lives through greatly improved air quality.
The five powerhouse policies—a clean electricity standard, zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) standards, clean building equipment standards, industrial emissions standards, and methane standards—are already being used in multiple states and can be adopted or strengthened in many others.
And the Inflation Reduction Act’s historic investments in clean energy mean adopting bold state climate policies is more cost-effective than ever before. With a clear mandate from voters and data-driven evidence showing the power of climate policies to clean our air, stimulate economic growth, and free customers from fossil fuel volatility—now is the time to act.
A powerful tool for powerhouse policies
Energy Innovation® and RMI jointly developed 48 state EPS models to help policymakers make data-informed decisions about climate policy. The open-source, peer reviewed EPS models assess the impact of dozens of climate and clean energy policies on carbon emissions, the economy, and public health. The models are built using publicly available state or federal data sources.
Using the new state EPS models, the researchers found five policies to be highly effective in cutting emissions while adding billions to their economies.
Clean electricity standards are a widely used and successful policy to cut emissions from power generation, requiring an increasing share of electricity be generated by zero-emission or renewable power. The EPS state analysis modeled an 80% clean electricity by 2030 standard, rising to 100% clean by 2035. In Pennsylvania, for example, the clean electricity standard generated the largest share of emissions reductions.
Separate studies have found a rapid transition to clean power can be reliable, save money, and create jobs. Quickly transitioning off dirty power sources by 2030 is also necessary to meet the U.S.’s climate pledges and align with global efforts to safeguard a livable climate. Although 29 states have some form of a clean electricity standard on the books, few are targeting a 2035 goal, so climate champions should urge faster transitions.
ZEV standards have been around for more than three decades, and 15 states have already adopted some form of clean cars standard. They’re a proven policy for increasing the number of new clean cars on the road every year. This EPS modeling evaluated the effect of requiring all new light-duty vehicles be zero-emission by 2035, and all heavy vehicles by 2045. Transportation is now the largest source of U.S. carbon emissions and a major source of toxic pollution, so switching to electric vehicles (EVs) are essential to safeguard climate and health. In Wisconsin, a ZEV standard would contribute about 20% of the overall emissions reductions resulting from the top five policies.
Many states recognize the benefits of ZEV standards to lower the cost of new EVs, ensure their customers have a greater range of models to choose from available in their state, and to create new manufacturing jobs. Delaware, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington have already moved to adopt California’s 100% ZEV sales standard, and about a dozen states will consider following suit this year—creating a ripe opportunity for climate action.
Clean building equipment standards require all-electric appliances in new residential and commercial construction or renovation, phasing in over time for existing buildings. The researchers modeled steadily increasing standards that require electric-only equipment in new and existing buildings by 2035. They found clean buildings alone would contribute 25% of the total emissions reductions from the five powerhouse policies in Michigan.
Many cities are adopting all-electric codes for new buildings and the state of Washington’s building code was recently updated to require electric space and water heating for all new buildings. As states consider policies to cut emissions from buildings, this standard should provide a model for new codes and standards.
Industrial emissions standards address a neglected, but significant source of carbon emissions: industries like iron and steel, chemicals and plastics, and cement. Though no state currently has an industry emissions-specific standard on the books, emissions standards have been used for decades to cut pollution from other sources. In this case, such a standard would incentivize switching industrial process heat from fossil fuels to clean electricity or hydrogen.
States can’t forget industry as they work to reduce emissions, especially for states with large industrial sectors. In Louisiana, for example, industry emissions compose two-thirds of the state’s overall emissions, and this one policy would reduce more of the state’s emissions than the other four policies combined. This policy goes hand-in-hand with economic growth: Louisiana would see about 60,000 additional jobs in 2030 by adopting this policy.
Methane emission standards require methane leaks be identified and the methane captured and destroyed. Methane is a dangerous climate pollutant causing about 28 times stronger than carbon over a 100-year period, so it’s critical all states—but especially states with high levels of oil and gas production—set strong methane emissions standards.
In 2014, Colorado was the first state to require the oil and gas industry to find and fix methane leaks, and its highly successful policy has served as a blueprint for other states and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. In New Mexico, the modeled methane standards would contribute 24% of the total emissions reductions resulting from the five policies.
Strong climate policies grow the economy and save lives
Smart climate policies are essential to strengthen state economies, attract billions in new investment, and create career opportunities in the burgeoning clean technology industry. A demonstration of this effect is happening right before our eyes: The Inflation Reduction Act, by far the most ambitious climate policy in U.S. history, has already spurred $50 billion in private investment and created 100,000 jobs since it passed last August.
The EPS analysis finds just these five climate policies would create anywhere from 13,000 up to 118,000 new jobs annually in each state evaluated in 2030. The states’ economies would also grow by 1% to 3% in 2030 and 3% to 7% in 2050.
In the six states studied, cleaner energy would prevent between 90 and 3,800 asthma attacks and 400 to 20,000 illness-related lost workdays annually. The five policies together would also save up to 300 lives every year from reduced pollution in the states evaluated, depending on the state.
With a clear climate mandate it’s time to get to work
The midterm elections brought new climate champions to statehouses across the U.S. These leaders now have a new modeling tool that can help them prioritize the most effective climate policies while saving consumers money and creating thousands of new jobs.
New climate policies are now being considered in California, Colorado, Michigan, New York Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and elsewhere. As decisionmakers work to achieve both climate and economic goals simultaneously, these powerhouse policies are sure to deliver.