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State-Level Policy Options

Fossil fuel combustion generates nearly 80 percent of U.S. GHG emissions. Policymakers in states across the country have identified a portfolio of incentive programs and mandatory standards aimed at reducing this pollution while driving investment in new technologies and lowering overall energy costs for residential, commercial, and industrial consumers. In addition to policies targeted at energy efficiency and renewable electricity and fuels, 25 states have committed to mandatory GHG emissions caps, most in the context of agreements to develop regional capand- trade programs.

Energy Efficiency in Building Design and Operation
Goal: Reduce energy consumption by increasing electricity and heating fuel use efficiencies in new and existing buildings.

  • Invest in certified high-efficiency lighting, windows, insulation, ventilation systems, and office equipment in all existing state-owned buildings, and build all new facilities to meet Energy Star Design, LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), or other green building standards. As a first mover, the state can educate the public and create local markets for green building technologies and firms.
  • Develop minimum energy efficiency performance standards for new commercial and residential buildings.
  • Work with relevant agencies such as municipalities to expedite permit reviews for Energy Star Design or LEED-certified projects.
  • Adopt minimum product performance standards, such as Energy Star or other certification, for retail equipment and appliances.
  • Ensure that every low-income customer has access to weatherization and other targeted energy efficiency programs that will make energy more affordable and improve quality of life.
  • Promote funding of demand-side energy efficiency improvements through utility-based energy efficiency performance standards.

Renewable Electricity Generation
Goal: Increase proportion of renewable electricity generation relative to fossil fuel-fired generation.

  • Increase annual generation requirements under existing Renewable Portfolio Standards (a state mandate to use renewable fuels for a percentage of utility companies' electricity generation), or adopt an RPS if it does not exist.
  • Work with electric utilities to facilitate retail purchase of renewable power over and above RPS requirements.
  • Allow net metering for consumer-owned renewable energy systems including solar and wind energy, so that small electricity producers receive credit on their bills for power sent to the grid.
  • Adopt fair interconnection standards to encourage nonutility renewable electricity producers to invest in distributed generation. The standards governing distributed generators' connections to the utility grid should be uniform, ensuring competitive market pricing with traditional electricity generators, and placing the burden of proof on the utility to show that an interconnection should not be allowed.
  • Implement state-level funding and incentive programs to support capital investments that will bring down the costs of renewable electricity generation in the short term.

Goal: Reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with vehicles usage, both in terms of vehicle miles traveled and transportation fuel types and efficiencies.

  • Offer user-friendly public transportation with adequate funding in state budget— both within urban areas and between population centers.
  • Cooperate regionally to develop passenger rail service, and build local public transportation systems with regional linkages in mind.
  • Introduce “feebates” or state tax credits for hybrid and other low-fuel vehicles, and support passage of stricter federal fuel efficiency standards.
  • Consider adopting a low-carbon fuel standard to drive investment in the next generation of biofuels while reducing dependence on imported oil.
  • Enact anti-idling laws for public and commercial buses, service vehicles, and freight trucks, particularly in urban areas.

Land Use Planning
Goal: Conserve greenspace and reduce sprawl, and address the climate change implications of natural and agricultural lands in state-level policymaking.

  • Implement “Smart Growth” zoning strategies such as transit-oriented development to contain urban sprawl.
  • Actively engage and provide grants to in-state land trusts to develop statewide plans for open space preservation, as well as for agricultural and other working lands heritage sites.
  • Assess forests, grasslands and other sites currently managed by the state for carbon sequestration potential, and work with federal land managers to include additional government lands in sequestration inventories.
  • Encourage climate conscious agricultural practices, such as conservation tillage and livestock methane digesters, through information sharing, state grants, and loans.

CASE STUDY: New York State Green Building Initiatives

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation is located at 625 Broadway in Albany, an energy efficient green building designed to reduce operating costs by 40 percent through energy efficient lighting, heating, cooling, and water systems. New York State's Green Building Tax Credit provides up to $25 million in funding to new construction and renovation projects that meet certain standards for building and appliance energy efficiency and use of renewable energy sources. The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) has facilitated the transfer of more than $92 million in federal and State funds to energy efficiency upgrades and other green building initiatives in the public and private built environment. In addition to the Tax Credit, the State provides green building design and implementation assistance through the New York Energy $mart New Construction Program, as well as commissioning assistance to new green building projects. Executive Orders Nos. 111 and 142 direct State agencies and authorities to improve energy efficiency and utilize biofuels in State buildings and vehicles.