Delivering Community Clean Energy
November 14, 2022
Session 2: Round Table on State Funding
After a quick break, Nancy Hirsh welcomed attendees back to the Delivering Community Clean Energy Conference for the second and final session of the first day. The session, Round Table on State Funding, was a fitting follow-up to the first session, since it brought state and community leaders together to discuss how the Northwest states would turn federal funds into implementation of climate and clean energy targets.
Nancy then introduced Lauren McCloy, Policy Director for the NW Energy Coalition, who moderated the session. Lauren introduced each of the four panelists:
- Matthew Garrett, Policy Advisor, Office of Oregon Governor Kate Brown
- Kelly Hall, Washington State Director, Climate Solutions
- Kyla Maki, Energy Resources Professional, Montana Department of Environmental Quality
- Brian Bonlender, Founding Partner, Lodestar Strategic
Lauren launched right into Q&A, tapping into the expertise and dialogue of the four panelists from across the Northwest. She began by asking each of the panelists where they see the biggest impact in terms of climate investments from the IRA and IIJA, in particular using an equity lens.
Matthew kicked things off by highlighting the interdependent nature of these investments and the fact that “collective wisdom” is needed to capitalize on the opportunity of these climate investments. Matthew then tackled the impact of the electrification of transportation. In Oregon, about $100 million in total is being directed towards electrification of transportation – about $52 million from the IIJA and an additional $40 million from the Oregon Department of Transportation and its Transportation Commission. Most of that funding is directed primarily at light-duty vehicles, but there are also opportunities for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles. Matthew also raised the issue of building supporting infrastructure for mass adoption of electric vehicles (EVs), such as charging stations. He drilled home the need for prioritizing charging station infrastructure and building upon the I-5 West Coast Electric Highway by expanding across the whole state. Matthew also believes that private sector partners will play an important role in the expansion of this infrastructure over the next five years. Oregon State programs, along with federal funds, will incentivize the private sector to build much needed infrastructure. Key to the buildout of EV charging infrastructure is access and availability, especially in lower income and vulnerable communities who have the most to gain from reductions in vehicle pollution. One example Matt used is building charging stations at multifamily housing units.
Kyla followed Matt with the perspective from the Montana Department of Environmental Quality. She began by emphasizing the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity these federal bills provide, especially for a state like Montana that has limited state funding towards clean energy programs. Kyla sees the influx of federal funding as a catalyst to begin new programs and build off existing programs in Montana, tackling transportation electrification, energy efficiency, home electrification, and more. Kyla emphasized the need to develop a strategy to work with local partners on the ground to determine how best to spend funding with an equity lens. Local governments, Tribes, and private partners know best what their communities need. She talked about the State Energy Office’s ability to stand up programs in just two years, and the need to work with other state agencies to learn what has and hasn’t worked, how to innovate, and make programs more efficient.
From there, Kelly began a conversation around Washington State priorities and opportunities. Over the last few years, Washington has had a lot of success in passing climate policies such as the Climate Commitment Act, the Clean Fuels Standard, the Clean Energy Transformation Act, and the zero-emission vehicle standard. These policies have allowed Washington to stabilize or even begin to reduce emissions in certain sectors. Additionally, the Climate Commitment Act is generating as much as $1 billion a year in funds, on top of the IRA and IIJA money. So, the question is, according to Kelly, where are the gaps in Washington’s climate and clean energy policies? Kelly would like to see the State focus on buildings and medium- and heavy-duty vehicles, two areas that are rapidly growing and causing rising emissions. Equity concerns are also of paramount importance – there is a nexus between carbon emissions, air quality, and equity. For example, cooking with a gas stove can increase a child’s risk of having asthma by 43%. Diesel exhaust is responsible for 70% of Washington’s cancer-causing pollutants. By tackling building and medium- and heavy-duty vehicle emissions, Washington can reduce emissions and also benefit communities by improving air quality.
Brian continued the perspective from Washington State, explaining that the most impactful aspect of these pieces of legislation is the fact that they change the conversation at both the policy level and in corporate boardrooms. Brian believes America is now on the path to decarbonization and that there will be a collective reorientation of how we think about climate in our everyday activities.
Drawing upon a theme from each of the panelists’ answers, Lauren followed up with a question about how to work with external partners. What is the role of States’ in ensuring that the benefits of these policies reach the communities that we want to serve?
Matthew kicked things off by using the phrase “nothing about us without us.” He talked about the need to use existing relationships to augment the knowledge and abilities of the state to target the correct programs with the correct funding.
Kyla followed up by explaining that the Montana Department of Environmental Quality has identified the importance of asking local governments and organizations what role they think the State should play in developing programs, beyond just administering the funds. Kyla also described the need to really engage with local communities to determine which benefits are most essential. By doing this, one can establish how each community is different and successfully measure the success of each local program. In response to a follow-up question by Lauren, Kyla clarified that the Department does not have plans to hire additional staff. It is a challenge, since the Department is attempting to do a lot of on the ground work in communities.
Lauren then turned to Kelly to ask how organizations like Climate Solutions and the NW Energy Coalition can use their expertise to help the State with implementation of programs and funding. Kelly began by illustrating that in addition to the States working with community groups, community groups should also be spreading the word about these beneficial programs. As an example, Kelly has been thinking about how Washington can use the Climate Commitment Act dollars to fund community groups to do the outreach that they are best equipped to do, while saving IRA funds for other priorities.
Brian agreed, highlighting that it seemed like most state agencies have overloaded capacity and have been struggling to determine how to use their limited resources on top priorities. Brian encouraged community groups, utilities, and other organizations to collectively determine priorities with state agencies and nudge state and local governments to pursue funding for those priorities. He also urged folks to work together now to analyze what gaps needed to be filled in each state in order to hit the State’s climate and clean energy goals
Lauren then asked one final question before turning to audience questions. Within the context of several expert analyses predicting a 40% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, what does successful implementation of the IRA and IIJA look like in 2030 for the Northwest?
Matthew started by zooming out even further and clarifying that implementation of these two bills are just one variable in a complicated equation. For example, in Oregon there is the cap & trade Climate Protection Program and House Bill 2021 which is a 100% clean electricity standard, both of which complicate the equation. There are many other variables, such as energy efficiency and conservation programs, electrification of transportation and buildings, current renewable technologies such as wind and solar, and emerging technologies on the horizon. However, Matthew noted, according to the Oregon Global Warming Commission’s Roadmap to 2035, Oregon can reach its greenhouse gas emissions reductions goals as long as it continues to lean in and implement the programs it has in place.
Kyla pointed to the fact that how transformative this funding turns out to be will, in large part, come down to the equitability, sustainability, and accessibility of the programs, especially given the longer timeframe of ten years for the funding of these programs. From Kyla’s perspective, it is important that the programs be uncomplicated and easy to administer in order to transform the energy system in the way that is needed.
Successful implementation to Kelly means removing as many barriers and providing as great of access to clean energy as possible, especially for our over-burdened communities. Additionally, Kelly hopes to see a 40% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. To her, the whole point of these federal funds is to make clean energy cheaper than fossil fuels and transform the energy market over the next 7 or 8 years. Success could be that clean energy is a smart economic option for everyone, even if you’re in a state that that doesn’t prioritize climate.
Brian closed out the question. He hopes to see newly generated jobs and wealth more broadly spread in an equitable way during this economic transition. Brian also believes that it will be conventional wisdom that clean energy means a vibrant economy, jobs, and better health. At a more granular level, Brian thinks that EVs and their charging infrastructure must be ubiquitous and building electrification commonplace.
Lauren then turned to the Zoom chat for questions from the audience, leading with a question about how we most effectively communicate all these complex funding opportunities, tax credits, and programs to average citizens, especially Justice40 communities.
Brian acknowledged the brilliance of the question since there’s so many policies and programs, and encouraged folks to look into incentives before making any large home or car purchases.
Kelly reiterated the importance of funding community groups to do some of the outreach work, since community groups are able to communicate a lot more effectively than groups that aren’t rooted in the communities.
Matthew agreed with Kelly and Brian, emphasizing that traditional ways of doing business will not work in this new world. He highlighted the need for an all-of-the-above approach: utilizing existing relationships in communities, building new ones, having in person meetings to meet people where they are, putting staff on the ground in Justice40 communities, and more.
Kyla used a specific example to show the Department’s thinking on this question. Many customers will come in contact with these incentives, rebates, and programs through contractors or community groups. So, the Department is thinking about how to use the millions of dollars that are available for States to provide contractor trainings to ensure that correct information is reaching the customers.
Lauren followed up with a question about defending consumers against bad actors that may try to take advantage of this funding by scamming consumers.
Matthew believes that everything possible is being done to protect consumers and that scammers will be held responsible. At the same time, with the scale of funding from these bills, it is inevitable that there will be some bad actors, so consumers should be aware.
Kelly provided the non-profit perspective that yes, there will be some bad actors, but it is one in one-hundred. Advocacy organizations need to be highlighting the other ninety-nine success stories so that the one scam isn’t the headline story that undermines the overall success of these programs.
Kyla emphasized the need to weigh consumer protection against quick and effective implementation. Too many roadblocks for the sake of protection could slow down and reduce the success of implementation, which is a variable the Department has been considering.
Lauren jumped into the conversation to acknowledge that industry groups in the Northwest have done a lot of work over the last several years to develop codes of conduct, contractor networks, and other consumer protections that are already in place.
Lauren and Nancy then closed out the second session of the day, thanking the panelists. Nancy highlighted that we have a huge amount of work in front of us. The partnership of communities and the need to listen to them is really critical to make sure the correct benefits are realized.