Bloomberg Philanthropies launches new Clean Energy Initiative

Bloomberg Philanthropies and the Heising-Simons family last week announced the launch of a new Clean Energy Initiative to support state-based solutions aimed at creating a clean, affordable and reliable energy system in the United States.

Bloomberg Philanthropies comprises the charitable activities of former New York City Mayor and business mogul Michael Bloomberg. The California-based Heising-Simons Foundation advances sustainable environmental solutions and supports scientific research and educational programs.

Bloomberg Philanthropies said advances in new energy technologies made it possible to achieve its goals, stressing that a “stronger, cleaner energy system will also pave the way for improved air quality and help fight the damaging health and economic impacts of climate change.”

The initiative will provide $48 million in grant funding to a broad range of stakeholders that will accelerate the transition of the U.S. power fleet toward cleaner electricity generation. It is also set to bolster collaborative, state-based approaches that encourage utilities to adopt technologies that the organization said had only recently become available and affordable.

Since 2010, solar energy prices have plummeted by 80%, wind energy prices have been cut in half, and the cost of LED lighting has fallen by 80%, Bloomberg Philanthropies pointed out . “American consumers stand to benefit from these developments if state policymakers work with utilities to accelerate their adoption – the Clean Energy Initiative will help provide the technical assistance for the transition.”

More than half of the Bloomberg Philanthropies grant funding will go to support more than two dozen state and local partners, including the Institute for Energy Innovation and the Respiratory Health Association. Additional funds will provide support to national organizations such as the Center for the New Energy Economy, the Environmental Defense Fund and the Natural Resources Defense Council.

“With the price of clean power falling, and the potential costs of inaction on climate change steadily rising, the work of modernizing America’s power grid is both more feasible and urgent than ever,” Michael Bloomberg said. “Pollution from power plants takes a terrible toll on public health, and it’s the biggest contributor to our carbon footprint. But smart investments can reduce it while also strengthening local economies. These grants will help states meet new federal clean power requirements in ways that save money and lives.”

Mark Heising, who established the Heising-Simons Foundation in 2007 with wife Elizabeth Simons, added, “The science on climate change makes it abundantly clear that carbon pollution poses a deep threat to society, to agriculture, and to nature — and that early action is required to avoid these threats. New technologies ensure that the solutions to climate change can be cost-effective. This initiative is designed to accelerate those solutions.”

Technical support, research and advocacy

The initiative will include analysis to determine grid optimization for different power types, potential for enhanced efficiency and methods to make the grid more robust. This analysis will help identify the biggest opportunities for new technologies and support regulatory strategies that ensure reliable and affordable energy for the United States, Bloomberg Philanthropies said.

The Clean Energy Initiative will also help states implement the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan, a set of draft rules for reducing carbon pollution from the power sector. Currently, power plants are the largest source of carbon pollution in the U.S., accounting for about 38% of all domestic greenhouse gas emissions.

With technical support, research and advocacy funded by the initiative, states will be able to develop their own strategies to limit carbon pollution and ultimately achieve the Clean Power Plan’s aim to cut carbon pollution from the power sector by 30% below 2005 levels. This approach will also have public health benefits, including reducing smog pollution by an estimated 25% and avoiding up to 150,000 asthma attacks each year.

“State and local leaders are on the front lines of transforming the way we produce and use energy,” said Bill Ritter, Jr., former Colorado governor and currently director of the Center for the New Energy Economy at Colorado State University. “This new initiative is helping to capitalize on this shift and adapt to the new environmental realities and the business opportunities they present.”

A key feature of the Clean Power Plan is that it lets states choose the best combination of energy efficiency, renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power, and improvements in current power plants. The EPA rules and associated state policies have the potential to triple or quadruple renewable energy production by 2025. Depending on state policy choices, existing efficiency programs also have the potential to grow dramatically, with investments doubling or quadrupling over the same period.

With support from the new Clean Energy Initiative, state-based policies could help achieve efficiency savings and renewable energy capacity additions equivalent to the yearly output of 100 to 140 coal plants, or 13% to 17% of the total electricity generated by the U.S. fleet, Bloomberg Philanthropies said.

“I’m grateful to Bloomberg Philanthropies for its support,” said Environmental Defense Fund President Fred Krupp. “The Clean Energy Initiative will propel smart, cost-effective reduction of carbon pollution from the biggest source, power plant smokestacks. We know how to make affordable clean energy. This initiative will speed the day when turning on a light doesn’t mean dirtier air or a legacy of dangerous climate change for our children.”

In 2014, Bloomberg Philanthropies distributed $462 million.