Presented by the Sustainability Policy Academy, “The Next Generation of State Clean Energy Initiatives” explored how state renewable portfolio standards are evolving to meet climate challenges and how energy companies, utilities and other players are contributing to a clean energy future.

Tristan Brown, an associate professor at the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry, walked participants through what he described as three generations of clean energy initiatives in the states. The first generation of initiatives, beginning in the 1980s, required more renewable electricity to be consumed through renewable portfolio standards.

The second generation of clean energy, Brown said, shifted focus from strictly renewable energy to climate security — in other words, reducing carbon emissions. Due to this shift in focus, nuclear energy has gained prominence. While not renewable, it does offer zero-emission energy. Other focuses include replacing coal with natural gas and implementing hydrogen. The third generation of clean energy initiatives recognizes that meaningful carbon reduction will requires action across the entirety of the state economy, including construction, transportation and agriculture.

“If we want to stay below two degrees Celsius warming, the world has to achieve net zero by mid-century,” Brown said. “The world has to go net negative shortly after. If we’re just focused on the electric sector, that’s just a 25% reduction. States need to be looking at how electric ties into all the other sectors and taking multi-sector approach.”

Will Fielder, energy projects advisor for Southwest Gas Corporation, discussed the use of compressed natural gas as an alternative fuel. Compared to electric buses, Fielder said, buses running on compressed natural gas have fewer emissions, are less expensive to buy and maintain and are out of service less.

“Pound for pound, they are a more effective way of reducing greenhouse gas emissions than electric buses,” Fielder said. “Compressed natural gas displaced 23.4 million gallons of diesel fuel across our service territory in 2019.”

Phillippe Bouchard, vice president of development for AlphaStruxure, a joint venture of The Carlyle Group and Schneider Electric, explored “energy as a service.” His company, which has committed to carbon neutrality in its own operations by 2025, and net carbon zero in its supply chain, without carbon offsets, by 2050, helps customers and municipalities meet their carbon reduction goals.

“AlphaStruxure provides energy as a service,” Bouchard said. “We develop, finance, own and operate comprehensive solutions for large energy consumers. We are technology and fuel agnostic. We are not here to sell a specific solution. We are here to understand the customer or municipality’s needs, and design and tailor something that meets that need.”

An important consideration for the states, Bouchard said, is equipping a workforce capable of dealing with growing technological needs.

“There’s a huge need for workforce education and training. This is an area where Schneider is actively involved in training the workforce of the future, and we’d love to partner with our legislators to make that happen.”

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