April 23, 2024 9:10 pm

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How Washington State will decarbonize itself by 2050

By Erin Freeman | Lynnwood Times Staff

CleanTech Alliance held a virtual coffee chat with the Economic Alliance of Snohomish County on the morning of January 19, conversing with community members about Washington State’s  2021 energy strategy.

Reeves Clippard

CleanTech Board of Directors Chair Reeves Clippard, CEO and Co-Founder of A&R Solar says that the state’s 2021 energy strategy is designed to provide a roadmap for meeting Washington’s greenhouse gas emission limits.

Law enacted in 2020 commits the state to limits of 45% below 1990 levels by 2030, 70% below 1990 levels by 2040 and 95% below 1990 levels with net-zero emissions by 2050.

“The state of Washington says that business as usual is not allowed,” Clippard explained. “We have to take action to decarbonize our economy and it’s going to be challenging, but we can do it.”

That state experienced a vast drop in greenhouse gas emissions between 2018 and 2020 triggered by COVID-19 restrictions.

“If you think about this drop between the beginning of last year and where we’re at now… let’s do this by design rather than disaster.”

CleanTech’s strategy prioritizes adopting state policies to achieve universal broadband access, a priority Clippard says specifically came from COVID, recognizing that not every community throughout the state can participate in the economy equally and the clean energy transformation.  Thus, they strive to examine clean energy policies for equity impacts in development and during implementation and provide funding for communities to take an active role through participation in the transformation. Workers will also be supported to ensure they have the skills for clean energy jobs and adopt policies to protect workers in transition.

Key actions the state plans to take to lower emissions from transportation is to establish specific targets for vehicle sales, transportation demand and emissions with accountability measures for meeting those targets.

To meet transportation goals, 100% of all new vehicles sold in the state must be electric by 2030, says Clippard. For preexisting cars, the state will adopt a low carbon fuel standard- a comprehensive mechanism to replace fossil fuels with electricity, hydrogen and clean synthetic or biogenic fuels.

CleanTech will also support the electrification of energy for buildings and industry.

The net cost of investments at the beginning of decarbonization are going to be pricey, explained Clippard, but will pay for themselves over time. The increase in prices in 2020 averages out to about 0.3% in the economy. In 2050, Washingtonians should expect a savings of $132 per year from electrification.

Decarbonization will negatively affect jobs between 2025 and 2030 driven by the increased costs, with a huge gain in employment opportunities anticipated in the succeeding 20 years.

While transforming the Washington economy will be challenging, it will be even more so rewarding, said Clippard, as the state is uniquely poised to succeed economically and environmentally.

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