Democratic presidential hopeful Jay Inslee, as part of his pledge to make combating climate change the top national priority, is calling for the nation’s entire electrical grid and all new vehicles and buildings to be carbon pollution free by 2030.
It’s the first major policy proposal from the Washington governor as he tries to gain a foothold in a field of more than 20 candidates.
The plan, the first piece of a series of climate action proposals from Inslee, would represent a national shift from coal-powered plants and traditional fuel engines in vehicles, while requiring an overhaul in the way most buildings are heated and cooled. Inslee’s outline would require legislation and executive action, some of it similar to what Inslee has pushed during his six-plus years as governor, but on a scale not seen at the federal level.
Inslee, who announced his campaign in March, has not yet attached a public or private cost estimate for a wide-ranging approach that would involve some direct federal spending, tax subsidies, and outlays by utilities and the private sector. He argues that doing nothing would cost more and that investments in clean energy will create millions of jobs to spur the economy, with that developing market and targeted government programs ensuring a stable transition for existing coal workers.
Worthy of “can-do nation”
“This is the approach that is worthy of the ambitions of a can-do nation and answers the absolute necessity of action that is defined by science,” Inslee told The Associated Press, adding that President Donald Trump’s denial of climate change will “doom us” to a stagnant or declining economy repeatedly hammered with natural disasters.
“We are already paying through the nose” through increased insurance rates and federal disaster declarations, he said. ”And there’s a heckuva lot more jobs defeating climate change than there are in denying it.”
Trump has called climate change a “Chinese hoax,” and he used a cold snap that hit much of the nation in January to again cast doubts, tweeting, “People can’t last outside even for minutes. What the hell is going on with Global Waming (sic)? Please come back fast, we need you!” But the Pentagon and the Republican president’s intelligence team have mentioned climate change as a national security threat.
Inslee pitched his proposal Friday in Los Angeles at the city’s new clean-energy bus depot.
He emphasizes that many U.S. cities and states already have set ambitious timelines for carbon emissions reductions but that there must be national action. Washington state this spring passed a law requiring that all power produced in the state be zero-emission by 2045; California, Hawaii, New Mexico and Puerto Rico have adopted similar requirements.
Inslee’s appearance with Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who considered a presidential bid, came days after former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke, who’s also running for president, went to Yosemite National Park to announce his own climate action plan that he says would require $5 trillion of public and private spending to put the economy on track to be carbon neutral by 2050.
Climate change has garnered more attention in the early months of the 2020 nominating fight than it did four years ago, but Inslee noted that he’s still the lone major candidate making climate action the centerpiece of a campaign, and he touted his decades of climate advocacy as a member of Congress and as governor.
Inslee, 68, said climate action “has been a lifetime passion for me.” Some highlights of Inslee’s proposal:
— Utilities would be required to achieve 100% carbon neutral electricity production by 2030 and reach zero-emission production by 2035. Inslee proposes refundable tax credits to help spur the development, and his plan calls for “guaranteeing support” for existing energy sector workers who lose jobs or otherwise are negatively affected in a transition to clean energy.
— All light-duty passenger vehicles, medium-duty trucks and buses would be required to be zero-emission by 2030. Vehicles already in service would be exempted, though a “Clean Cars for Clunkers” program would provide rebates when consumers trade old vehicles for new, zero-emission models. The plan would expand business and individual tax credits to encourage production and purchase of zero-emission vehicles.
— A national Zero-Carbon Building Standard would be created by 2023, helping states and cities redevelop their own building codes for residential and commercial construction. Tax incentives for builders and buyers would be used to encourage energy-efficient heating and cooling systems in construction.
— All federal agencies would be brought under the 2030 timeline. That includes everything from making the government’s vehicle fleet zero-emission to using federal lands and property, including offshore waters, to capture and distribute more wind and solar power. (VOA)
When the worst floods in a century swept through India’s southern Kerala state in August, they killed more than 480 people and left behind more than $5 billion in damage.But one thing survived unscathed: India’s first floating solar panels, on one of the country’s largest water reservoirs.
As India grapples with wilder weather, surging demand for power and a goal to nearly quintuple the use of solar energy in just four years, “we are very much excited about floating solar,” said Shailesh K. Mishra, director of power systems at the government Solar Energy Corporation of India.
India is planning new large-scale installations of the technology on hydropower reservoirs and other water bodies in Tamil Nadu, Jharkhand and Uttarakhand states, and in the Lakshadweep islands, he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
“The cost is coming almost to the same level as ground solar, and then it will go (forward) very fast,” he predicted.
As countries move to swiftly scale up solar power, to meet growing demand for energy and to try to curb climate change, floating solar panels – installed on reservoirs or along coastal areas – are fast gaining popularity, particularly in Asia, experts say.
The panels – now in place from China to the Maldives to Britain – get around some of the biggest problems facing traditional solar farms, particularly a lack of available land, said Oliver Knight, a senior energy specialist with the World Bank.
“The water body is already there – you don’t need to go out and find it,” he said in a telephone interview.
And siting solar arrays on water – most cover up to 10 percent of a reservoir – can cut evaporation as well, a significant benefit in water-short places, Knight said.
Pakistan’s new government, for instance, is talking about using floating solar panels on water reservoirs near Karachi and Hyderabad, both to provide much-needed power and to curb water losses as climate change brings hotter temperatures and more evaporation, he said.
Solar arrays on hydropower dams also can take advantage of existing power transmission lines, and excess solar can be used to pump water, effectively storing it as hydropower potential.
China currently has the most of the 1.1 gigawatts of floating solar generating capacity now installed, according to the World Bank.
But the technology’s potential is much bigger – about 400 gigawatts, or about as much generating capacity as all the solar photovoltaic panels installed in the world through 2017, the bank said.
“If you covered 1 percent of manmade water bodies, you’re already looking at 400 gigawatts,” Knight said. “That’s very significant.”
Growing use of the technology has raised fears that it could block sun into reservoirs, affecting wildlife and ecosystems, or that electrical systems might not stand up to a watery environment – particularly in salty coastal waters.
But backers say that while environmental concerns need to be better studied, the relatively small amount of surface area covered by the panels – at least at the moment – doesn’t appear to create significant problems.
“People worried what will happen to fish, to water quality,” said India’s Mishra. “Now all that attention has gone.”
What may be more challenging is keeping panels working – and free of colonizing sea creatures – in corrosively salty coastal installations, which account for a relatively small percentage of total projects so far, noted Thomas Reindl of the Solar Energy Research Institute of Singapore.
He said he expects the technology will draw more investment “when durability and reliability has been proven in real world installations.”
Currently floating solar arrays cost about 18 percent more than traditional solar photovoltaic arrays, Knight said – but that cost is often offset by other lower costs.
“In many places one has to pay for land, for resettlement of people or preparing and leveling land and building roads,” he said. With floating solar, “you avoid quite a bit of that.”
Solar panels used on water, which cools them, also can produce about 5 percent more electricity, he said.
Mishra said that while, in his view, India has sufficient land for traditional solar installations, much of it is in remote areas inhospitable to agriculture, including deserts.
Putting solar panels on water, by comparison, cuts transmission costs by moving power generation closer to the people who need the energy, he said.