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By Nicole Lederer, Special to CALmatters

California has the toughest clean air standards and some of the most ambitious climate policies in the country.

It also has more clean energy jobs, attracts more clean energy investments, and drives more innovation in renewable energy and energy efficiency than any other state.

There’s a connection here. California’s policy leadership has provided a huge market incentive to innovate and invest in clean energy, and the state is reaping the rewards.

The fossil fuel industry warned that policies such as the 2002 California Clean Cars Standards and the 2006 Global Warming Solutions Act, which led to the state’s carbon cap-and-trade program, would kill businesses and drive jobs out of the state.

Instead, the exact opposite has happened—and the payoffs are absolutely measurable.

Some specifics, by the numbers:

  • 519,000. That’s how many Californians get up every day and go to work in jobs in solar, wind, energy efficiency and other clean energy sectors according to data from the 2018 US Energy Employment Report. The report, produced by the National Association of State Energy Officials, Energy Futures Initiative and partners including my organization, E2, (Environmental Entrepreneurs), is based on methodology and data developed for the U.S. Department of Energy.
  • $2 billion. That’s how much money has flowed to California cities and counties from the state’s cap-and-trade program, the California Air Resources Board reports. That money has helped cities, schools, and families install solar projects, buy zero-emissions vehicles and implement energy efficiency projects, saving consumers money and creating jobs.
  • $49.2 billion. That’s how much private companies and investors have committed to renewable energy, energy efficiency, clean transportation, and other greenhouse gas mitigation projects, research done by the analytics research firm Kevala shows.

One of those private companies that recently had an impressive initial public offering is the fuel cell manufacturer Bloom Energy.

“California’s focus on clean air and reducing carbon emissions has created an environment where companies like Bloom Energy can invent, manufacture and deploy leading clean energy technologies, and create more than 1,400 jobs in the process,” Josh Richman, Bloom’s vice president of Global Business Development and Policy, told me.

Beyond job creation, the market signal from California policies to tackle the climate challenge and transform our energy sector channels more cleantech investment capital to California than to any other state.

Mark Bauhaus is a 30-year Silicon Valley tech industry veteran and investor who has seen this first-hand.

“Thanks to the strong climate action signals in California, I see a resurgence of startups and jobs in renewables, storage, carbon-reduced materials, and so many other innovations toward building a net-zero carbon economy,” said Bauhaus, a partner in investment firm Just Business and an adviser to Paired Power, a solar-to-electric vehicle start-up. “This climate action and innovation economy are booming. And it’s a job seekers’ dream in California.”

Clean economy jobs provide real opportunity across the employment spectrum for current and future workers in the state. By comparison, there’s only one job that’s on the rise due to escalating carbon emissions: firefighting.

Next week, world leaders, policymakers, investors, and others will converge on San Francisco for the Global Climate Action Summit, in part to witness how climate policies have paid off for our state.

They’ll hear the California business case for smart climate and clean energy policy first hand from the industry and policy leaders who made it happen.

It’s a story the world is eager to hear because it’s a verifiable lesson in success.


Nicole Lederer is a co-founder of chairwoman E2, Environmental Entrepreneurs, a partner of the Natural Resources Defense Council, nlederer@e2.org. She wrote this commentary for CALmatters.