Apple Invests $1.5B in Clean Energy; 17 States Won’t ‘Stay’ Clean Power Plan

The U.S. Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision to delay the enforcement of President Obama’s Clean Power Plan was a victory for the coalition of 27 industry opponents and mostly Republican-led states that believe the regulations are a “power grab.” In response, a bipartisan group of 17 states has announced that they will collaborate to expand clean energy, modernize energy infrastructure, and drive change.

Together, the participating states represent nearly 40 percent of the U.S. population. The group is mostly comprised of Democrat-led states, but did see participation from four Republican governors: Terry E. Branstad of Iowa, Charlie Baker of Massachusetts, Rick Snyder of Michigan, and Brian Sandoval of Nevada. Snyder’s support is perhaps the most surprising; although Michigan has been “considering compliance options,” it was among the 24 states that filed suit against the Clean Power Plan in 2015. The rest of the signatories represent the states of California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, New Hampshire, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington.

The states’ governors released the Governors’ Accord for a New Energy Future on February 16, saying that their states “are once again poised to lead,” and that “we recognize that now is the time to embrace a bold vision of the nation’s energy future.” The agreement includes promises to:

  • Diversify energy generation and expand clean energy sources;
  • Modernize energy infrastructure;
  • Encourage clean transportation options;
  • Plan for the energy transition;
  • Work together to make transformational policy changes; and
  • Help secure a stronger national energy future.

“The whole genius of this accord is we’re bringing together parties, governors of different philosophies. Without having to wait for Washington, we out here among the states can accomplish something very important,” California’s Governor Jerry Brown said.

The bipartisanship is in part thanks to the language they used in the accord, which leaves out any express mention of “climate change” or “global warming.” The document does cite that “extreme weather events, such as floods, droughts, wildfires and sea-level rise, can negatively impact electric reliability and the economy,” but does not tie these events to greenhouse gas emissions.

“There’s a very sharp cleavage in the United States on this issue of climate change, and it has a lot of partisan coloration,” Brown told reporters. “We want to move forward. We want to get done important stuff without getting bogged down in the larger controversy.”

Bill Magavern, policy director for the Coalition for Clean Air, pointed out that the positive effects of the agreement are not dependent on its verbiage: “The fact is that making a transition to clean energy is the most important way to mitigate climate change, so I don’t really care that much what they call it.”

The accord and several of the governors’ statements focused on the economic benefits of a clean energy transition for their states. For example, Sandoval attributed his support of the accord to job creation and the exportation of energy, as well as that the accord “provides a platform for Nevada to leverage new partnerships, gain and share knowledge and an opportunity to introduce our energy advancements to other states.” Nevada currently exports about a third of its renewables and expects to increase its renewable generation from 18 percent of its current mix to 25 percent by 2025.

Meanwhile, Apple will be financing clean energy projects across its global business operations through $1.5 billion in bonds – the largest green bond issued by a U.S. corporation, according to the company’s head of environmental policy. Apple reported that the bond sales will finance renewable energy, energy storage and energy efficiency projects, green buildings and resource conservation efforts.

The green bond market has been limited by a lack of common standards for what constitutes a “green bond” and transparency about how the proceeds are used have acted as limitations for the green bond market. At COP21 in Paris, investors representing $11.2 trillion in assets called for transparent standards for green bonds. Despite concerns, there is an unsatisfied demand.

“There have been surprisingly few companies participating” in offering green bonds, Ceres’ investment program director Peter Ellsworth told Grist. “There’s considerably more demand than there is supply, which is why this bond is particularly welcome.”

Apple is overcoming some of the concerns by using the Green Bond Principles established by a group of financial institutions including BlackRock Inc. and JPMorgan Chase & Co., as reviewed and verified by consultancy Sustainalytics. Accountancy EY (formerly branded as Ernst & Young) will perform annual audits of how the green bond proceeds are used. The majority of the proceeds are expected to be spent within two years of the issuance of the bonds.

“This will allow investors to show they will put their money where their hearts and concerns are,” Lisa Jackson, Apple's vice president of environment, policy and social initiatives, told Reuters.

Apple was among the 13 U.S. companies to join a $140 billion pledge for climate action last July.


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