Interview: Clean Energy Goals for 2035, Partisan Politics or A Real Business Case, with Mitchell Beer, founder of The Energy Mix
Christina Corcoran – Utilities have been asked by the #Biden administration to expedite clean energy goals by as much as 15 years, from 2035 to 2015. What would you say to those who held the belief that #cleanenergy is nothing more than just playing cards at the political game table? Is there any evidence for a non-partisan, business case?
Mitchell Beer – There’s nothing partisan about climate science and a meticulously developed science behind the 1.5 Degrees Celsius Pathways Report that was published in 2018 by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). This report laid out the task that by 2030 (plus or minus a few years), we have to reduce global, greenhouse gas emissions by 45%, and then to 100% (plus or minus a few years) by 2050. I’m saying plus or minus because the sky won’t fall if we hit 2031 instead of 2030, but we’re on a very tight timeline. All of the science and technology shows that for utilities, as well as for all of the players in the U.S. and global marketplace, it means profound change. However, that change needs to be managed. The transition needs to be thought through, organized, and executed in a way that leaves no one behind.
As that happens, there is a massive business opportunity on the scale of $26 trillion by 2030, according to one estimate a couple of years ago, and tens and hundreds of millions of jobs worldwide.
If what we’re interested in is stable and natural systems that the economy can depend on, look no farther than the freeze in #Texas. Look no further than the #polarvortex syntaxes. And that’s not the worst that we’re going to see from uncontrolled climate change. It’s scarcely the opening act.
So, given that you have these opportunities and this massive potential, utilities have the challenge, but also the opportunity, of being right at the center of it. Why wouldn’t they be? It is as simple as that. I asked that naively, but really, why not? There is so much we can achieve in this. Look at Texas. Houston has been slammed by two massive, devastating hurricanes. In California, for the last three or four years, wildfires are becoming annual events that disrupt the economy, lives, as well as people’s health, including mounting PTSD among L.A. forest and wildfire fighters… Sea levels are on the rise on the coasts… I could go on.
Christina Corcoran: I do have to throw out there, is there any solid data making the case for delivering clean energy goals within 15 years? Earlier, you mentioned a few things, but is there solid evidence that backs this up? Is it possible?
Mitchell Beer: Yes. This is coming both from the top-down and from the bottom up.
There is a growing body of research, of modeling studies, showing what’s possible. Occasionally they will point to potential obstacles along the road that need to be addressed, but the common threads that I would take away from evidence-based research is that it’s not a question of whether we can get this done, it’s a matter of how to get it done, and how best to get it done. There are better and worse ways of doing it, but very little, if any, doubt that it’s doable.
Then, from the bottom up, we’re seeing all manner of local responses that are little pieces of the puzzle that are cool, innovative, and creative, that take care of people and take care of jobs.
I’m not so sure that there has been any really hard moment, or the opportunity to connect all of the grassroots activity into a model—and if there are any modelers out there who could contradict that, please let’s hear about it—but the activity is there. A lot of our frontline work, at the state and local level in the U.S., is attributable—and it’s a credit to—the group of state and local governments, businesses, and civil society organizations who reacted to that intensely painful moment in 2017 when the U.S. temporarily left the Paris Agreement.
I was at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in 2017 when America’s Pledge Coalition made its first appearance. A lot of that frontline innovation has been driven by that coalition, which is now reforming to push for the administration to set a target of 50% greenhouse gas emission reduction by 2030.
With the business case we now have in place for clean energy, it’s just a matter of figuring out how we can move faster towards our clean energy goals.