The measures will mark the first major climate laws in the nation when they get anywhere close to their current form. Above all, this includes the Clean Electricity Performance Program, which uses payments and fines to encourage utility companies to increase their share of electricity from CO2-free sources (read our earlier statement here).
Other speakers on the panel, titled Clean Up the Power Sector, advised on the creation of this program. These included Leah Stokes, associate professor specializing in energy and climate policy at the University of California, Santa Barbara; and Jesse Jenkins, assistant professor and energy systems researcher at Princeton University.
They argued during the session that legislation to ensure that 80% of the country’s electricity comes from clean sources by 2030 is more effective and politically feasible than competing approaches, including carbon taxes preferred by many economists.
“When … we say to people, ‘We’re going to make it more expensive for you to use an essential good, which is energy,’ that’s not very popular,” said Stokes. “This theory of political change has collided with the reality of income inequality in this country.”
“The other paradigm is, ‘Instead of making fossil fuel use more expensive, we should help make using cleaner materials cheaper,'” she added.
However, it remains to be seen whether and in what form the clean electricity measure and the other climate regulations will be passed. Even some Democratic senators in the narrowly divided Congress have cut back on spending they call excessive in the bills.
Despite all advances on climate issues, well-funded and politically influential utility and fossil fuel interests continue to hamper efforts to overtake energy systems at the speed and scale required, Julian Brave Noisecat, vice president of policy and strategy at Data for Progress, pointed out to the meeting moderated.