The outcome of the 2018 election cycle has the potential to cause a seismic shift in energy policy. Last year, Advanced Energy Economy and our allies conducted a comprehensive campaign in nine targeted states to engage candidates for governor on the benefits of advanced energy. In seven of the nine states the winning candidates made strong commitments for expanding advanced energy in their states. While it is early in these new administrations, it’s not too soon for a snapshot of what’s happened to date and determine where promises are being kept or broken.
The first sign of where an issue ranks within any administration comes in the form of appointments to key positions made by the new governor. For those of us tracking energy issues this means we’re looking at appointments made to the utility regulatory body, and to the Cabinet offices charged with energy, environment, and economic development.
In Colorado, Gov. Jared Polis has chosen allies of advanced energy – including Will Toor, John Gavan, and Zach Pierce – to key posts within his administration. Toor will head the Colorado Energy Office, Gavan has been named to the Public Utilities Commission, and Pierce will be senior policy advisor on energy and natural resources in the Governor’s Office. All three of these appointments put seasoned allies of our industry in important positions and send the signal that Polis is serious about that 100% clean energy goal he campaigned on.
We have also seen new Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer make both strong appointments and issue an Executive Order to better align energy and environmental planning in the early days of her administration. Gov. Whitmer’s appointments of two former Michigan Energy Innovation Business Council (Mi-EIBC) Presidents in Liesl Clark and Dan Scripps to lead Michigan DEQ and serve on the Public Service Commission respectively shows that she means business on advanced energy deployment.
We’ve seen several other new administrations appoint highly qualified candidates to key positions in the early days of the year, including former Interwest Energy Alliance Executive Director Sarah Cotrell Propst named to oversee Energy Resources in New Mexico. Former Clean Energy Project Executive Director Jennifer Taylor joins the Sisolak Administration in Nevada as an energy advisor, and a number of advanced energy allies are joining the Newsom Administration in California. Less encouraging was the appointment by Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine of a well-known adversary of advanced energy policies as chair of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio.
A host of new governors have also taken the step of joining the U.S. Climate Alliance. Illinois, Michigan, and New Mexico have joined the coalition, which is committed to implementing policies that advance the goals of the Paris Agreement and promote clean energy deployment.
In addition to appointments, we are seeing a number of states begin to debate legislative proposals that, if enacted, will expand the share of advanced energy in the states.
Legislation to increase renewable portfolio standards (RPS) is expected in Illinois, Nevada, and New Mexico. In each state, the likely proposals would increase the standard to at least 50%. The governors have endorsed the legislation in Nevada and New Mexico, and while Gov. Pritzker has not yet endorsed an increase to the state’s RPS it is believed he will prioritize advanced energy following his inaugural budget address in the coming days.
Beyond states considering RPS increases, we are seeing a number of legislative packages under consideration that would benefit the industry. In Colorado and New Mexico, proposals to allow for the securitization of coal assets could speed up the transition to advanced energy. And in Minnesota, legislation to expand community solar programs has the potential to provide more consumers with access to renewable energy.
While these appointments, executive directives, and legislative initiatives are not the full picture, it is a clear indication that real progress for an advanced energy future is going to be driven through the states – and AEE will be there pushing.