The Inslee campaign considers the bill “the most comprehensive path to 100 percent clean energy,” Jared Leopold, a spokesman, told me. “It sets down real teeth and standards. It’s reflective of what the modern discussion is at the state level.” Inslee has also launched a green-buildings code as governor.
The new plan earned mostly good reviews from a slate of climate-policy experts, who said it built on preexisting state-level policies while pushing a faster timeline. “It is already aligning with a lot of the ambition of the Green New Deal,” says Greg Carlock, a policy researcher at the leftist advocacy group Data for Progress. “They’re picking something ambitious.”
But climate ambition has often flubbed on a federal level. Leah Stokes, a political scientist at UC Santa Barbara, noted that even though Inslee’s policies have found success in Washington State, the same policies have not had the same record in D.C. “There have been many efforts to pass a federal [renewable electricity standard], in the ’90s, and under [the 2009 climate bill] Waxman-Markey, and it’s always resisted by utilities and ultimately defeated.”
She also advised considering the practical challenges of the plan. Carbon-free sources—such as wind, solar, and nuclear—now generate 37 percent of U.S. grid electricity. Under the Inslee plan, they must take over the last 63 percent of the grid over the next 16 years, Stokes said.
To meet that target, clean energy must add about four percentage points every year between now and 2035. This would be unprecedented: Even over the past few years of record-setting expansion for renewables, clean energy has grown by only 0.6 percentage points a year.
And that may actually understate the challenge. “It’s not just an eightfold increase—it’s probably closer to a tenfold increase, because if you’re going to electrify everything, you have to grow the grid,” Stokes said. The Inslee plan would add tens of millions of new electric cars to the road, all of which would need to draw their energy from the power grid. A literature review last year found that U.S. electricity use could more than double by 2050.