New York is on the verge of passing the most ambitious climate bill in the U.S. to date, a down payment on a Green New Deal and a warning shot for the fossil fuel industry.
The bill would require the state to source 100 percent of its electricity from clean energy by 2040. But it goes much further than that, requiring an 85 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions (below 1990 levels) from all sources by 2050. The remaining 15 percent could come in the form of offsets or carbon capture.
In other words, it isn’t just coal and gas-fired power plants that are under fire, but it will also force out crude oil from the transportation system and from residential and commercial heating.
Notably, there is an interim target of hitting 70 percent renewable energy by 2030. The plan calls for an ambitious ramp up of solar and offshore wind.
“It’s definitely the most progressive bill that we’ve seen anywhere,’’ Miles Farmer, a senior attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council, told Bloomberg.
The measure is the latest, albeit the most aggressive, in a wave of clean energy legislation that has swept through state capitols over the last few years, and especially over the last 12 months. States with 100 percent clean energy targets include California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Washington, as well as Puerto Rico. The energetic state-led efforts come in response to environmental deregulation at the federal level.
The European Union is also on the verge of taking a similarly aggressive measure. After balking for quite some time, Germany is expected to support EU-wide targets to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, according to the FT. The switch in support comes shortly after the UK committed to its own measure to hit net-zero by 2050, and it also comes in the wake of the European Parliamentary elections, which saw a strong performance by the Green Party in Germany. Moreover, unlike in the U.S., strong climate policy garners at least some level of support across the political spectrum in much of Europe. Still, the costs could be steep. For instance, New York City’s recently passed law requiring commercial buildings to adhere to strict energy efficiency targets – a 40 percent reduction in emissions by 2030 – could alone cost as much as $4 billion.
But, of course, doing nothing as the climate crisis worsens carries significant costs. At the same time, renewable energy continues to get cheaper and cheaper, which should aid even the most ambitious efforts of states like New York.
According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, which just published its latest annual forecast, roughly half of the total electricity generation across the entire world will come from solar and wind by 2050, even as electricity demand rises by 62 percent over that timeframe. Hydro and nuclear chips in another 21 percent. Europe is expected to decarbonize the fastest, with the U.S. and China lagging behind with a larger fleet of coal and gas-fired power plants to retire.
BNEF says that about $13.3 trillion will be invested in new projects by mid-century, with $5.3 trillion going into wind and $4.2 trillion pumped into solar. On top of that, another $840 billion is funneled into battery storage.
Coal will see its market share dwindle from 37 percent to just 12 percent, and oil as a source of electricity generation is “virtually eliminated,” BNEF said. Some of the figures are startling. BNEF estimates that wind and solar are already the cheapest option in two-thirds of the world. By 2030, wind and solar will be cheaper than existing coal and gas “almost everywhere,” BNEF concluded. Coal is growing in Asia right now, but it “collapses everywhere else and peaks globally in 2026.”
Notably, natural gas-fired power generation is only expected to grow 0.6 percent per year through 2050. Natural gas has become a top priority for the oil majors, looking for a hedge against peak oil demand. But gas may not turn out to be the stronghold that oil executives believe.
The forecast says that the pace of change could keep the world on track to meet the Paris Climate Agreement targets, keeping warming at 2 degrees Celsius. But only through 2030. Beyond that date, more policies and technological progress will be needed, especially reforming power markets that allow for greater grid integration of so much renewable energy.
“Our analysis suggests that governments need to do two separate things – one is to ensure their markets are friendly to the expansion of low-cost wind, solar and batteries; and the other is to back research and early deployment of these other technologies so that they can be harnessed at scale from the 2030s onwards,” BNEF’s Seb Henbest said in a statement.