Climate 2022 Washington
Washington: are you ready to act on climate in 2022?
We made some great progress in 2021 on climate, but there is still so much more to do to meet WA’s statutory climate goals, and most importantly, respect our Earth’s climate boundaries.

Clean power icon 120To stabilize the climate and avert catastrophic disruption, we must transition our economy away from fossil fuels—particularly our energy and transportation sectors—by mid-century. Shifting our grid in the Pacific Northwest to rely on 100% clean and efficient power is the core foundation to building a clean energy economy.  And with very rapid progress in vehicle electrification and energy storage technologies, clean electricity can soon be a major part of the strategy for reducing transportation-related emissions.

The great news is we are well on our way to a carbon-free electric power system. In 2019, Washington State enacted one of the strongest clean energy policies in the country, with utilities having to transition off coal power by 2025 and offer 100% clean and carbon-free electricity by 2045. With robust renewable energy and clean fuels standards and a commitment to end the use of coal already on the books, Oregon followed suit in 2021, matching the nation's strongest statewide timeline for adopting 100% fossil-free electricity by 2040.

Clean Power Pathways

The Northwest electric power system is already 71% carbon-free, making the region’s power supply as a whole less carbon-intensive than any other part of the U.S. The large base of existing hydropower both anchors the existing low-carbon system and, because it offers operational advantages over large thermal power plants, can serve as a relatively efficient platform for integrating renewable energy. The major carbon pollution sources on the grid are already approaching functional and economic obsolescence; many coal plants are scheduled for retirement already, and no new ones are being built. 

The technologies to produce and use clean electric power, especially wind and solar energy, are relatively well-developed, diverse and commercialized now.  As the energy system makes greater use of rapid advances in information and communication technology, more pathways emerge on both the demand and supply sides for meeting energy service needs. 

While some bring up the need for "bridge fossil fuels" it's worth noting that while fossil methane is picking up some of the slack, it is with dubious climate benefits,[1] and there is little if any legitimate need for new investments in gas power plants or infrastructure. Existing capacity can serve any foreseeable temporary need to use gas for system balancing. A diverse array of flexible, low-cost strategies is emerging – including energy storage, efficiency, load management, smart grids, renewable energy diversity, and scheduling accuracy–to instantaneously balance electric power systems loads and resources.

Using energy wisely and renewable energy can save and deliver the kilowatt-hours we need. But we will also need to upgrade the “system” hardware and software to unlock their full potential. Grid modernization, smart grids, load management systems, storage solutions, and energy and transmission market reforms are vital and rapidly evolving parts of this “system upgrade.” 

We expect that renewable electric resources will be the primary focus of any new electric generating capacity needed to achieve decarbonization.[2] It's essential to accelerate progress in financing, deploying, incentivizing, and integrating these technologies to get to a 100% clean grid.

Utilities and their regulators will need to evolve as well, developing financial and regulatory models that reward innovation, facilitate decarbonization to more distributed energy systems, protect consumers, and invest in communities historically impacted the most by pollution and lack of investment.


[1] Even low rates of methane leakage largely–or perhaps completely–balance out the advantage of gas over coal due to its lower CO2 production. But “better than coal” is not the appropriate test: even if leakage were not a problem, investment of long-term energy capital in new gas capacity is not consistent with the emission and investment trajectories necessary to meet climate stabilization imperatives.  See: “Key factors for assessing climate benefits of natural gas versus coal electricity generation.”

[2] Nuclear power plays a very limited role in the existing NW system, with only one commercial generating station in the region. New nuclear capacity using existing, commercialized technology is not competitive, nor is it being contemplated. New nuclear technology platforms are in the experimental stages, as are many other renewable energy technologies. While further innovation is likely, our focus will be primarily on deployment and operationalization of technologies and systems that have a reasonably clear sightline to safe and affordable commercialization. 


 

The Top three takeaways in mapping a clean future for Washington

by Vlad Gutman-Britten on May 25, 2017

The good news is that we know how to build ourselves a clean energy future, what we need to tackle climate change. The bad news is just that it won't happen by itself.

Biglow Canyon Wind Farm
Keeping the Frack Out: Clean Energy for Oregon

by David Van't Hof on March 20, 2017

Building new gas-fired power plants will lock Oregon into decades of climate-disrupting fossil fuel energy at a moment when clean energy sources like wind and solar are more affordable than ever.  We're saying no.

Solar panels
Here Comes the Sun

by Eileen V. Quigley on November 1, 2016

Falling costs and increasing deployment of solar energy are making a clean electricity grid more of a reality, which is good for both decreasing carbon emissions in buildings and from industry, but also in transport as more vehicles shift from fossil fuels to electricity.

ClimateCast logo over owl in flight
Judges hear power plan, clean energy costs falling

by Seth Zuckerman on October 3, 2016

Study reviews link between dams and methane; OPEC agrees—in principle—to reduce oil production; owls inspire design of quieter wind rotors; and more news of the week in climate and clean energy. 

Oil trains: not just unsafe. Unnecessary.

by KC Golden and Eileen V. Quigley on August 4, 2016

Will it be hard to transition completely from oil to clean energy? Yes. But it’s well within our reach.

Oregon's plan to trade coal for clean energy—the benefits in detail

by Kristen Sheeran on March 15, 2016

We're still celebrating Oregon's new Clean Electricity and Coal Transition law! Here we explain why we love it so much, how it moves the needle towards climate security, and what's left to be done. 

Oregon makes history on clean energy

by Kristen Sheeran on March 2, 2016

Oregon is now on its way to have one of the cleanest energy grids in the country. We're so proud!

On the road to net zero energy homes in Oregon?

by David Van't Hof on February 24, 2016

It's time for Oregon to reclaim a leadership position on building codes and to join the vanguard of states leading the way in pursuit of net zero energy homes and businesses. 

The Coal to Clean Imperative

by Elizabeth Willmott on February 8, 2016

Puget Sound Energy is a crucial player on Washington's path toward a clean energy future, but its 20-year resource plan falls significantly short on the urgency and boldness we need to make deep, near-term carbon reduction.

Planning and preparing for climate change in the Northwest

by Bill Bradbury on November 17, 2015

The NW Power and Conservation Council is preparing a new, 20-year plan for our region's power grid, with emphasis on increasing energy efficiency and reducing carbon emissions. Find out what's in the draft report, and how you can weigh in.

Renewing Brew - Solutions Story

From the farm to the foam in your glass, Oregon businesses are building a sustainable life-c

Give for a brighter future

Connect

Events

There are no upcoming events posted at this time.

Solar panels

Here Comes the Sun

Falling costs and increasing deployment of solar energy are making a clean electricity grid more of a reality, which is good for both decreasing carbon emissions in buildings and from industry, but also in transport as more vehicles shift from fossil fuels to electricity.

Read More