UCLA summit on 100% clean energy draws leaders from 30 states

November 6, 2019

Amid concern over the climate crisis and in the absence of federal action, momentum is building on the local and state level toward 100% clean energy. The topic drew more than 200 invited national leaders, state legislators, city mayors, activists, regulators and scholars from 30 states to the Summit on State & Local Progress Toward 100% Clean Energy at UCLA Luskin Conference Center on November 6, 2019. 

The UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation and its policymaker-in-residence Kevin de León, who authored California’s 100% clean energy mandate in 2018 as California Senator pro Tempore, hosted the first-of-its-kind event. The UCLA Sustainable LA Grand Challenge was an event partner.

More than 200 cities and counties, 11 states, plus Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia have committed to, or have already achieved, 100% clean energy, according to a Luskin Center for Innovation white paper released at the summit.

1 in 4 Americans live in a community committed to 100% clean energy.

In total, one in four Americans live in a community committed to 100% clean energy. This success has “largely gone unnoticed,” said J.R. DeShazo, director of the Luskin Center for Innovation.  “Local communities are proving possible what once seemed impossible: cities and counties can run on 100% clean power. By achieving this goal today, local initiatives can light the way for the rest of the country.”

Other speakers echoed the importance of sharing success stories to help change the narrative about 100% clean energy and economic growth. 

Salt Lake City mayor Jackie Biskupski led the adoption of a plan for the city to be powered by 100% clean energy by 2032. “There’s a myth — heavily used in the state of Utah — that this will destroy the economy of our state, and this is just not true,” Mayor Biskupski said. “There are solar farms being built in rural areas that are helping the local economy, and helping them establish a new economy.”

Bob Dixson, who served as Mayor of Greensburg, Kansas from May 2008 to November 2018, shared the story of his community’s experience rebuilding after a massive tornado in 2007 destroyed 95% of the town. Out of the tragedy, Dixson said, came an opportunity to “build the community back as our ancestors built it, for future generations.” One outcome was transitioning Greensburg to 100% wind power. “We are all about being a living laboratory,” he said. “Come see what we’ve got.”

Speakers cautioned that any transition from coal and other polluting energy sources to clean energy needs to include plans for well-paying jobs and, if necessary workforce re-training. This aspect was critical to passing California’s 100% clean energy legislation, de León said. “We had to show a pathway to good, quality jobs that you could measure and verify,” he said. 

U.S. Representative Patricia Roybal Caballero, (D-New Mexico), co-sponsored a bill for New Mexico to reach 100% clean energy by 2045. She said that the process included a broad coalition of stakeholders who came together to create programs to dispel rumors that jobs in renewable energy don’t pay well, as well as providing funding for severance and retraining. “The unions were at the table with us,” Rep. Caballero said.

Once a 100% clean energy mandate is passed, there is a massive implementation burden because the bills are generally light on specifics, said Allison Clements, program director of Clean Energy Markets at the Energy Foundation. “The last 80-100% is going to be expensive and difficult,” Clements said. “It’s an interesting opportunity to think about state-level technology innovation. Carbon removal, carbon capture and other tech innovations should be on the table. That is not something in these bills.”

Visit the Summit on State & Local Progress Toward 100% Clean Energy website for a full list of speakers and the event agenda. Videos from the summit also may be viewed on the resources page of the website. 

Additional coverage:

A Third Of All Americans Live Somewhere That Will Use 100% Green Energy Forbes, 14 Nov 2019

100% ‘clean’ electricity: Where things stand EENews, 14 Nov 2019

The Push for Clean Energy is Powering Up Capitol Weekly, 5 Nov 2019

Tracking Progress on 100% Clean Energy Targets Greentech Media, 12 Nov 2019

UCLA Organizes Clean Energy Summit for Industry Leaders T&D World, 6 Nov 2019

Speakers at Summit Optimistic About Clean-Energy Adoption in US Daily Bruin, 8 Nov 2019