The Fourth Wave
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The Fourth Wave

How green tech is growing a robust economy in Washington State

Building Energy Technology for a Carbon-Free Global Economy

Credit: IIP Photo Archive

One thing people understand deeply in Washington state is that climate action and a healthy economy are intrinsically linked.

Washingtonians have a long, bipartisan history of working to conserve and protect the incredible bounty of beauty around them. Within one afternoon, a person can visit pristine beaches along the coastline, hike up a snow-capped mountain, visit an ancient rainforest and take in the breathtaking vistas of the abundant farmlands.

But that bipartisan legacy is being challenged mightily by science-denying forces who ignore this simple truth: Climate change is threatening the very people and places loved and cherished most.

What’s confounding is that by denying the reality of climate change, these same people are denying future economic prosperity. But states like Washington are stepping up. Their culture of innovation is at the heart of almost everything they do, from advanced agriculture to IT. That innovation is exactly what is needed to tackle climate change while simultaneously seizing the enormous job growth that comes with developing and building energy technology for a carbon-free global economy.

To be sure, innovation can be unsettling. It creates change that can be dizzying. It took nearly a century for landline phones to reach market saturation — defined as the moment when new demand wanes. Mobile phones achieved the same milestone in 20 years and smartphones in just a decade. It’s already hard to recall a time we couldn’t find a highly-rated burger stop, hire a ride-share to get us there and invite a dozen friends to join us all within seconds of retrieving a device from our pocket.

Innovation is transforming the marketplace faster than ever. There’s a mismatch between the ever-quickening pace of change, and the ability of society to keep up. This disconnect cannot be ignored. Already, it’s roiling countries around the globe. And in the face of this turmoil, leaders are presented with a choice.

We can give into anxiety and fear, try to turn back the clock, build walls, pass on opportunities, and deny the most existential threats we face.

Or we can tackle our biggest challenges head-on, and we can do it in a way that makes sure everyone has a chance to be part of the progress we create.

In Washington they’ve made the choice to go all in on clean energy.

The Clean Energy Fund has invested more than $100 million to develop, demonstrate and deploy emerging clean energy technologies in Washington. They are on track to end coal-by-wire and further solidify our extensive use of renewable energy.

They’ve made promotion of electric and autonomous vehicles a top priority, because most carbon emissions come from the transportation sector. They have a robust electric vehicle incentive package, including no sales tax on mid-range vehicles, and they’ve recruited and grown 20 companies that are leaders in autonomous vehicle technology. They’re even converting the biggest vessels in our state-run ferry fleet — the largest in the nation — from diesel to electric.

Washington leads through partnerships with the private sector as well. Last year Washington’s regulators partnered with the state’s largest utility to launch a first-of-its-kind program to enable large energy consumers to purchase 100% renewable power. The groundbreaking model means large consumers including Washington State, Starbucks, Sound Transit and REI get clean power at stable, low rates while the utility expands its product line to meet the new demands of climate conscious customers. Similar programs are now available in 12 states and more are on the way.

All the while, Washington ranks consistently as one of the nation’s top states for business.

Climate leadership can’t stop at our borders. Governor Jay Inslee joined Governors Brown and Cuomo in leading the US Climate Alliance, a coalition of 16 state and Puerto Rico leading the clean energy transformation that’s needed to meet the US commitments to the Paris climate agreement. The Alliance is a bi-partisan coalition, working together to step up where the federal government has stepped down.

Washington is joining these leaders in embracing progress instead of retreat, in looking forward instead of backward. This is who we are as a nation. We create, we invent, we build. And the people of Washington are a great example of this — ready to create, invent, and build the carbon-free future the world’s children and grandchildren deserve.

We are entering a new era of environmental innovationthat is driving better alignment between technology and environmental goals — and results. #FourthWave



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Environmental Defense Fund

Environmental Defense Fund


We work with businesses, governments and communities to create lasting solutions to the most serious environmental problems. We’re EDF.