Climate Compass Blog

Washington state commits to supporting a growing EV market

The power and transportation sectors are the top two sources of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. So for a state like Washington that already relies on low-emission power, transportation is the key opportunity to reduce emissions.

That’s why two concrete steps by the state to support its growing electric vehicle (EV) market in the near term are significant. As part of a transportation package signed by Governor Inslee on July 15, Senate Bill 5987 will:

  1. Extend the state’s EV sales tax exemption to 2019, opening up it up to plug-in hybrids that can travel at least 30 miles on electricity while capping eligibility to cars that cost under $35,000.
  2. Create a unique EV infrastructure bank to fund innovative charging station projects.

Although both steps were less than the broader climate action the governor sought, it’s notable that the state has given a clear market signal that it wants more EVs on its roads, and that it is encouraging public-private partnerships to fund EV charging infrastructure.

These actions are grounded in broader research C2ES completed this spring for the Washington State Legislature’s Joint Transportation Committee. The study analyzed a variety of roles that the public sector can play to help expand private investment in EV charging infrastructure.

With demand for public charging still low and charging infrastructure costs high, it’s critical to capture the indirect revenue streams associated with charging services.

For example, automakers that sell EVs can benefit as new infrastructure fills in charging gaps and people gain more confidence in the technology. If the automaker shares some of this additional revenue with the provider of those charging services, the business case is greatly improved.

We’re already seeing this in action. In January, BMW, Volkswagen, and Nissan committed to major investments to install more than 1,000 charging stations in Oregon, California, the Northeast, and elsewhere.

Another example of indirect value is the additional revenue businesses, such as stores and tourist destinations, can bring in by hosting charging stations. Wine enthusiasts flock to the more than 100 wineries in the Walla Walla region, but getting there and back with an EV can be difficult. By hosting charging stations, these businesses can differentiate themselves and attract new visitors.

Washington state’s new infrastructure bank will offer low-interest loans and grants to help fund profitable projects that address an existing infrastructure gap and capture the indirect value of charging services. This type of public-private partnership aims to attract more private investment in charging infrastructure.

But to attract that investment, demand at stations must continue to grow. That’s why extending the state EV sales tax exemption is important.

A cleaner transportation sector is critical if we’re going to reduce the emissions that are altering our climate. More publicly available charging is key to EV success, and leveraging near-term public support can attract the private investment needed to make EV charging part of our national landscape.

Learn more about our project and download the business model tool we developed to complete this analysis.

Companies pledge climate action

Thirteen companies took a public stand for climate action at the White House today, pledging to reduce heat-trapping emissions, increase clean energy investments, improve efficiency, and support efforts to reach a global climate agreement this year in Paris.

Three companies making pledges – Alcoa, Bank of America, and General Motors – are members of the C2ES Business Environmental Leadership Council, a group of mostly Fortune 500 companies, representing a combined $2.3 trillion in revenue, that support climate policy solutions that will move us toward a low-carbon future.

These business leaders – and many more – recognize the reality of climate change and the necessity to act.

For instance, HP recently announced that it will power 100 percent of its Texas-based data centers with renewable energy, thanks to a 12-year agreement to buy power from a 112 MW wind farm in Texas, in partnership with SunEdison.

Dow has reduced 320 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions from its operations compared to 1990 levels, and announced that by 2020, its trajectory for absolute emissions from operations and purchased power will meet internationally recognized targets for a 2 degree Celcius maximum global temperature rise.

A wide array of industries, including construction, finance, defense, transportation, retail, energy and technology, as well as local government and higher education, have been honored with Climate Leadership Awards. The program sponsored by the Environmental Protection Agency with C2ES and The Climate Registry recognizes outstanding voluntary actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and build resilience to climate change. Among the recipients earlier this year were Bank of America, The Clorox Company, General Motors, The Hartford, SC Johnson, Tiffany & Co. and UPS.

Why are all of these businesses in action? Because they get it.

They see climate risks firsthand -- in damaged facilities, interrupted power and water supplies, disrupted supply and distribution chains, and impacts on their employees’ lives.

Last year was the warmest on Earth since we started keeping records over a century ago. During the first half of this year, it got even hotter. Climate change is posing real and rising risks to our environment, economy, security and society and the longer we wait to act, the costlier the impacts will be.

Today’s announcements represent at least $140 billion in new low-carbon investment and more than 1,600 megawatts of new renewable energy, in addition to ambitious, company-specific goals to cut emissions.

Alcoa, which already had committed to reducing its greenhouse gas intensity 30 percent from 2005 levels by 2020, announced a pledge to up that to 50 percent by 2025.

Bank of America pledged to increase its current environmental business initiative from $50 billion to $125 billion by 2025.

And General Motors pledged to reduce energy intensity at its facilities 20 percent and water intensity 15 percent by 2020 from a 2010 baseline, in addition to increasing its use of renewable energy and reducing the waste it sends to landfills.

Although businesses – along with many cities and states -- are working toward a more sustainable future, it will take a global effort to address a global threat. That’s why it is significant that these 13 companies today also announced their support for a strong outcome to the international climate talks in December in Paris.

Many nations, including the United States, China, and the European Union, have already announced their goals for reducing greenhouse gases as part of the Paris process. But the strength of any agreement will rest on the parties’ political will to implement it.

The strong support of business leaders for climate action, like that exhibited today, can only help to strengthen that will.

EPA drives shift away from potent global warming gases

As nations meet this week to work on an amendment to the Montreal Protocol to reduce hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) -- one of the most potent greenhouse gases – a U.S. program is helping to reduce domestic emissions and demonstrate to other countries that there are practical, climate-friendly alternatives.

Hydrofluorocarbons, chemicals widely used in refrigeration, air conditioning, foam blowing, and other applications, were developed to replace ozone-depleting substances (primarily chlorofluorcarbons and hydrochlorofluorocarbons – CFCs and HCFCs) a few decades ago. But while HFCs don’t deplete the ozone layer, they do contribute to global warming, and, without policy intervention, their use is expected to grow dramatically over time.

Congress created the significant new alternatives program (SNAP) under the 1990 Amendments to the Clean Air Act. Its objective was to require the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to review substitutes for ozone-depleting chemicals to avoid having them create new health or environmental problems.  EPA has implemented this rule using a comparative risk-based framework (e.g., comparing risks of toxicity, flammability, ozone-depleting potential, and global warming potential).

As new alternatives have been developed, the lists of acceptable and unacceptable substitutes have also changed. The latest two changes in April and July focused on adding to the lists of acceptable alternatives, while also eliminating uses of certain potent HFC gases where more climate-friendly alternatives are now available. For example, for automobile air conditioning, HFC-134a, with a global warming potential of 1430, is being replaced with a new chemical, HFO-1234yf, which has a global warming potential of 4, less than three-tenths of a percent of the HFC it’s replacing. In addition, HFC-152a systems and carbon dioxide-based auto air conditioning systems are allowable under SNAP and are being explored by some in the auto industry.

EPA’s actions to limit certain HFCs are building blocks in achieving the domestic reductions in greenhouse gases called for in President Obama’s Climate Action Plan.

The actions are also important to two major efforts to reduce greenhouse gases globally. As nations work to come to an agreement in November under the Montreal Protocol to phase down HFCs, EPA’s SNAP rules signal to other countries and to industry worldwide that alternatives are commercially available. In addition, the SNAP rules provide credibility to the U.S. commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 26-28 percent by 2025 and help the U.S. demonstrate its commitment in the effort to reach an international climate agreement in December in Paris.

Countries should assess climate risk the way they assess other security risks

National security leaders deal with deep uncertainty on a daily basis about everything from North Korea’s ability to produce a nuclear weapon to the location and timing of the next terrorist attack by non-state actors such as ISIS and al-Qaida. Security decision-makers don’t use uncertainty as an excuse to ignore security threats.

Borrowing a page from security analysts, a new report out today by renowned climate experts and high-level government advisors from China, India, the United Kingdom and the United States assesses the risks of climate change in the context of national and international security.

China’s provinces learn how to reduce emissions with trading

As many U.S. states start to think about ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions under the proposed Clean Power Plan, it’s eye-opening to see how Chinese provinces are taking many of the same first steps.

I recently joined state officials from Arizona and Michigan and a Georgetown University professor on a study tour of China’s climate policy and low-carbon technology use at the provincial level. In each city we visited -- Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu in Sichuan province, and Changsha in Hunan province -- our meetings with government officials, academics, and nongovernmental organizations had a common theme: Environmental issues are a serious challenge for China and greenhouse gases should be addressed along with other types of pollution.

It was very encouraging to hear national, provincial, and municipal leaders all agree that something has to be done to reduce China’s emissions. But they also agreed the country faces significant challenges in reaching its goal of peaking emissions no later than 2030.