I couldn’t be more excited about a vision that’s gaining momentum across the Northwest: achieving 100% clean and efficient energy across all sectors, in the Northwest by 2050.
The idea makes sense, since Washington businesses are on the climate change front lines, as climate change impacts threaten to diminish our natural areas, our communities and our ability to do business. Over the last five years, business has been impacted from reduced snow pack, over-heated rivers, wildfires, air quality and ocean acidification. Most recognize that ‘climate vulnerable’ businesses like ski resorts, hop farmers, forest managers or fisherman are already impacted and will continue to be highly impacted in the future. But businesses that rely on global, interconnected supply chains will also suffer in a changing climate.
While many major business understand these impacts and have already made a commitment to go “100% renewable” including Apple, Bank of America, Coca-Cola, Nestle, eBay, Facebook, Google, Johnson and Johnson, Microsoft, Nike, and Starbucks – the opportunity to transition our entire region to 100% clean and efficient energy in every sector is a proposition that would clearly be an incredible game changer for all Northwest businesses, our region and the nation.
Not only is it possible to do this in the Northwest, but we’re in a position to both lead and do so faster than anywhere else in the nation. Why? We are home to a diverse base of technology leaders which provides an incredible platform for continued renewable and low carbon technology innovation. We have also long been blessed with abundant hydro power, are a large wind producer and home to many other clean energy developments. Finally, our region has long relied on and values our natural environment and we have become leaders in sustainability.
To achieve this bold vision, however, a number of key elements will need to be embraced:
Go Coal Free: Washington will need to completely remove coal from the Northwest’s power grid. Oregon’s already done so. Both states should also embrace additional energy efficiency, phase out gas-fired power, and increase renewable energy.
Embrace Clean Electric and Phase Out Oil: Electrifying the transportation sector which produces nearly half of Washington’s carbon pollution (along with as many other areas as possible) will help us phase out fossil fuels. We can join California’s commitment to cut petroleum consumption in half by 2030 and then phase out fossil fuels for surface transportation by 2050.
Build and Invest in Clean Energy Jobs and the Economy: We’ve just started to scratch the surface on the economic opportunity that comes from clean energy. One success story is solar. In a very short period of time, the solar industry has grown to employ twice as many workers as the coal industry, almost five times as many as nuclear power, and nearly as many workers as the natural gas industry. While the clean energy economy is expanding, the opportunity to spur economic development by growing investments in innovative renewable and low-carbon technologies will only serve to help ‘homegrown’ jobs flourish, along with our economy.
Target Urban Decarbonization: 70% of global carbon emissions come from cities. It’s essential that we create deep carbon reduction strategies – that include focusing on buildings, transportation, and energy supplies.
Support a Sustainable Transition As we transition to clean energy economy we need to support business and communities by offering broadly shared economic opportunity.
Washington businesses are just beginning to understand the importance of going 100 percent clean energy and what they have to gain. We’ll continue to explore this idea and share information as this continues to move forward.
Lisa McCrummen is on the Washington Business for Climate Action Leadership Team and owns CreativeThink.