“All you need is the plan, the road map, and the courage to press on to your destination.”
–Radio legend Earl Nightingale (1921-1989)
How do we, efficiently and effectively, complete the transition from an energy system rooted in fossil-fuel generation to a much-needed clean energy system for our region? As participants in last week’s Lessons for a Climate & Energy Roadmap 2050 Process for the Northeastern US learned, it takes courage to embark on the collective journey to a low-carbon future, and it helps to bring a map.
Hosted by CLF, CLF Ventures, and The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy’s Center for International Environment & Resource Policy, and sponsored by The Oak Foundation and German Consulate General of Boston, the December 16 event at Tufts University brought together business and government leaders and environmental advocates from the Northeast with their counterparts from Germany and the European Union (EU), Canada, California, and beyond. The goal: explore how the EU’s experience pursuing renewable energy, energy efficiency, and climate protection policies and targets could offer lessons for our region’s clean energy and climate transition.
The Northeast Roadmap 2050 event drew inspiration from the EU Roadmap 2050 process, which convened key stakeholders to shape a shared vision for reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the EU at least 80% below 1990 levels by 2050. Here in the northeast US/New England, we have a very similar opportunity. The New England states and New York, along with the Eastern Canadian provinces, have adopted climate goals and mandates that mirror the EU mandate. We have a core of business leaders that can be mobilized, and a number of key energy players here are the same companies that sat at the table for the EU Roadmap 2050 process. Though the questions underlying a similar planning process for the Northeast are simple, the challenges are anything but: Can the leaders of our region articulate the vision of a sane energy transition that leaders and decision-makers in Washington have not? If so, how do we achieve essential buy-in from key regional decision makers, like executives and regulators, to move from a shared vision to an implementable course of action?
During the daylong event, participants joined in person and over videoconference to begin to build a foundation of shared knowledge upon which a Roadmap 2050 process can be built for the Northeast. Among the day’s highlights:
- Tufts emeritus professor of international environmental policy and lead author on several Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports William Moomaw urged participants to accelerate the transition to renewable energy sources and emphasized that such a transformation is essential.
- Mike Hogan, Senior Advisor to the Regulatory Assistance Project, shared several key lessons learned from the EU Roadmap 2050 process, including:
- Derive legitimacy from a very broad base of stakeholder participants, including industry, governments, NGOs, governments, and technical experts.
- Start from a point of broad consensus about the destination. Participants don’t need to agree on how to get there or even if they can get there, as long as they agree on the destination.
- Focus on shifting the public narrative about what makes sense and re-defining the “middle ground.”
- Keep everything on the table and take nothing for granted (except the destination).
- 90 percent of the success of the Roadmap process is just getting people to sit in the room and stay in the room to work together on the process.
- Dr. Patrick Graichen, Executive Director of Agora Energiewende, a German energy think tank, and Graham Weale, Chief Economist, RWE AG, a leading European utility, presented insights from Germany’s energy transition (Energiewende) and from the German energy industry, including the key role of wind and solar energy, and the importance of building both supply- and demand-side flexibility and strong market mechanisms into a low-carbon energy system.
- V. John White, Executive Director, Center for Energy Efficiency & Renewable Technologies, offered insights from the ongoing California 2030 Low Carbon Grid Study. Among the Phase I findings:
- The importance of balancing California’s energy portfolio both technologically and geographically;
- The need to modernize California’s currently inefficient gas fleet and use gas differently;
- The increased role of bulk storage and demand response to shift energy demand to different parts of the day and reduce demand on the overall system;
- The emerging need for California to take a more regional approach to its energy grid.
- Michael Jasanis (HotZero, LLC and former CEO of National Grid USA),Phil Giudice, CEO and President of Ambri, and Cindy Arcate, CEO and President of PowerOptions, contributed the perspectives of Northeast utility and energy industry leaders.
From the wide range of opinions and insights shared over the course of the day, participants were left with a sense of urgency to accelerate a clean energy transition for the Northeast as well as many questions that remain to be explored. Next steps? Participants expressed interest in a second, follow-up convening that will likely be planned for early 2015, hosted by an organization that can provide a supportive yet outcome-neutral role in advancing a Northeast Roadmap 2050 stakeholder process. Once the process is underway, the group will develop a framework for the multi-sector analysis and modeling work needed to create a powerful vision that will shape governmental and business decision making and that will be owned by a broad and deep regional stakeholder group.