Climate Solutions' K.C. Golden: "Entering the Era of Consequences"

The Northwest Energy Angels were treated to a captivating keynote address at their January Member Lunch. Climate Solutions’ Policy Director, K.C. Golden delivered a talk entitled Entering the Era of Consequences, wherein he summarized how the empirical reality of climate disruption is changing the political environment for climate and clean energy policy. During his 30-year career, Mr. Golden has made tremendous progress advancing policies that promote clean energy solutions and sustainable prosperity. Mr. Golden outlined some upcoming policy prospects at both the state and federal level and provided NWEA members a sober yet hopeful assessment of the future. He stressed the need for galvanizing leadership within the investment community.

By K.C.’s appraisal, we’ve already entered into an era of consequences but that didn’t stop him from celebrating the concurrent era of growing collaboration. He has observed more citizen awareness and movement on climate change in the past year than at any time in recent memory. Mr. Golden reminded the Angels that despite noisy contrarian claims, reality is a patient and increasingly persuasive messenger. He asserted that global citizens are increasingly beginning to accept the reality and ask for action from their elected officials. The implications for the clean tech sector are encouraging; private investment dollars continue to support rapid growth in businesses that provide solutions to many of the problems Mr. Golden outlined. He also summarized several encouraging state and federal policy prospects for the near future.

At the federal level, Mr. Golden applauded the renewal of the PTC (production tax credit), even though it was pushed through as part of the last minute “fiscal cliff” deal. K.C. also cautioned investors about the “yo-yo affect” that uncertainty about the PTC creates. You can see the deleterious affect that PTC expiration has on U.S. wind installations in the graph below. 

Sources: Compiled by UCS based on data from DOE 2012, EIA 2012.

Mr. Golden speculated that the EPA could continue to use the power of the Clean Air Act to enforce stricter CO2 standards on existing power plants. The enforcement of Clean Air Act requirements has had the beneficial affect of reducing coal-fired emissions, although not as much as competition from the recent boom in natural gas production. He also mused that while lawmakers in the other Washington appeared to be posturing when it comes to a national carbon tax, such a measure is certainly not off the table and could be a huge part of a new revenue package in D.C.   He emphasized that policies which prevent major new capital investments in fossil fuel infrastructure are vital.  From both a climate science perspective and a clean tech perspective, we can ill afford further commitments to making the problem worse and locking in the economic and political power of fossil fuel incumbents.

Turning his attention to Olympia, Mr. Golden outlined the legislative effort to adopt stronger efficiency standards for energy-using equipment in Washington State. He observed that while equipment standards don’t generally push the state of the art, innovative technologies coupled with intelligent financing moves the needle. Investor groups can create the conditions that the State needs to upgrade their standards by driving the innovation that makes equipment more efficient. On a state carbon tax, again K.C. was cautiously optimistic but acknowledged that there is a major rift between revenue-neutral plans and revenue-positive plans. He surmised that if a carbon tax is proposed in a legislative environment mired in revenue problems, but does not actually provide any income for the state it could be a hard sell to legislators. Mr. Golden also noted the significance of the election of Governor Jay Inslee, who has been a strong proponent of clean technology and innovation for his entire career.

If you’d like to learn more about how Climate Solutions is working on your behalf to address the prevailing challenges of our time, please visit their website. You can sign up for news alerts and say out ahead of important regulatory decisions. Mr. Golden and Climate Solutions envisage a future powered by a vibrant clean tech economy and their vision is well within reach. The Northwest Energy Angels are facilitating that transition to a clean tech economy, one investment at a time. 

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