(RALEIGH, NC — March 10, 2021) North Carolina’s Clean Energy Plan (CEP), an outcome of Gov. Roy Cooper’s Executive Order 80, set electricity sector targets to reduce carbon pollution by 70% below 2005 levels by 2030 and reach carbon neutrality by 2050. One recommendation from the CEP included a year-long study of options for how the state’s power sector might achieve these targets. The results of that study were released today by the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions and the UNC Center for Climate, Energy, Environment and Economics, cataloguing a number of considerations, including an analysis of how joining the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) would advance the state toward its carbon pollution reduction goals.
RGGI is a collaboration of 10 Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states working together to reduce climate pollution. RGGI places a declining limit and a cost on carbon emissions from the power sector, and offers a flexible framework to reduce emissions at low costs and address the unique needs of the state’s communities. Many businesses, environmental groups, and the public support placing a limit on carbon as a necessary and effective way to address climate pollution from electricity generation.
“By placing a declining limit on carbon emissions from the power sector through RGGI, North Carolina can guarantee that emissions fall on a timeline consistent with the state’s climate goals,” said Drew Stilson, Senior Analyst for U.S. Climate Policy at EDF. “RGGI is designed with the flexibility to implement it in a way that makes the most sense for the state’s unique needs, and it’s highly compatible with a variety of other complementary clean energy policies in order to maximize the environmental and economic benefits for North Carolina.”
As shown in the Nicholas Institute’s analysis, combining other policies — such as accelerating coal retirements and establishing a clean energy standard — with RGGI can further improve the cost-effectiveness of reducing carbon pollution by creating additional savings for ratepayers, while guaranteeing that the state will achieve its pollution reduction targets.
With the flexibility RGGI allows, North Carolina can ensure that proceeds from the program are directed to help the state’s frontline communities most overburdened by air pollution. The state should work hand-in-hand with these communities to drive investments toward safety, health and equity, and ensure that RGGI is designed in a way to help accelerate reductions in harmful local pollution in communities most burdened by health and environmental impacts.
For example, proceeds from the RGGI program might include expanding air quality monitoring in overburdened areas, providing energy bill assistance for households with lower incomes, and creating jobs and economic opportunities through investment in renewable energy and energy efficiency in underserved communities. Additionally, the study found that RGGI, paired with investments in energy efficiency, would create over 47,000 job-years and increase GSP by $4.9 billion over the study period.
“The evidence presented in the Clean Energy Plan is clear: North Carolina can make critical progress on its climate goals by joining RGGI,” said David Kelly, Senior Manager for North Carolina Political Affairs at EDF. “Governor Cooper should act on these strong findings to move the state toward a clean energy future, while seizing meaningful opportunities to improve health and equity across the state.”
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