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Utility Dive: New governors accelerate clean energy action, propelled by Democratic midterm wave

Posted by Catherine Morehouse on Feb 8, 2019

Utility Dive covers the wave of state-level advanced energy policy that came as a result of midterm elections that brought in governors with clean energy agendas. AEE Managing Director J.R. Tolbert comments on several trends across these states. See excerpts below and the entire Utility Dive story here:

The highly anticipated wave of state-level clean energy policy stemming from last fall's midterm elections is just beginning to make its way across the country, aided by a crop of eleven new Democratic governors, seven of which flipped previously Republican seats.

Many governors have already made clean energy policy a priority in their first month, laying the groundwork to continue or begin their state's transition to a cleaner, more efficient electric grid.

"We're seeing a lot of public comments from a number of these governors that indicates that the commitment to clean energy was more than just campaign rhetoric," J.R. Tolbert, managing director at Advanced Energy Economy, told Utility Dive.

"It was actually a commitment to seeing that rhetoric become policy, which is exactly what we were hoping for and what we believed we were seeing from them on the campaign trail."

As the White House continues to push a pro-fossil fuels agenda, many advocates for the clean energy transition have turned their attention to state level policy as a means to address climate change and energy priorities…

Maine, New Mexico and Wisconsin, on the other hand, are all emerging from less progressive administrations and the table has not yet been set for clean energy.

But while New Mexico is seeing a lot of action, Wisconsin "probably has the steepest hill to climb to sort of implementing [the governor's] policy vision on clean energy," said Tolbert.…

Democrat Gov. Tony Evers has already expressed his support for renewables in the state, which has seen slower solar and wind adoption, even within the historically coal-reliant Midwest. Both the House and the Senate have a Republican majority in the state, and passed a bill to limit the governor's power during their lame duck session after Evers' election.

"The legislature did everything they could to attack his authority as [Republican] Governor Walker was on his way out," said Tolbert. "I don't know of anything that is direct to clean energy that those bills did, what they do is they put you at a disadvantage of just trying to do your agenda, so I think that's really hard…"

"Governors are saying the right thing, legislators are starting to put the wheels in motion and we really see what's going on as a positive sign that this has the potential to be a very big year for clean energy, renewable energy, energy efficiency and so on," said Tolbert.

Before the new year, Washington, New York and Washington, D.C. all set 100% clean energy goals within weeks of each other. While no states under new governors have committed to 100% goals yet, a number of candidates ran on platforms promising to make such pledges, including new governors in Maine, Illinois, Nevada and Colorado.

"Nevada hasn't started [its legislative session] but we are fully expecting to see a 100% RPS bill introduced in Nevada," said Tolbert

Minnesota on Monday introduced two complimentary bills in the House and Senate that would commit the state to 100% carbon free electricity by 2050. But the state has a split legislature, and representatives of the Republican-majority Senate have already expressed concern about the legislation.

"The challenge, I think, will come for Governor Walz in Minnesota, where if he wants to go bold on clean energy programs it's probably going to be more of a challenge because he's got to walk a tighter rope to get things through the state senate there," said Tolbert.

Illinois Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker made commitments to put his state on that path as well, and "there is active negotiation around a comprehensive clean energy package that would aggressively move the state toward 100% clean energy," said Tolbert.

See the complete Utility Dive story here:

Topics: AEE In The News