The states of Colorado, Nevada, and New Mexico are embarking on ambitious multi-decade efforts to mitigate climate change and build greater climate resilience. In recent years, these states have set targets to expand renewable electricity generation while slashing economy-wide greenhouse gas emissions.
As state policymakers develop pathways to achieve these goals, they have a unique opportunity to address environmental, public health, and economic inequities created by the current energy system. Existing fossil fuel-based infrastructure is not only a source of greenhouse gas emissions, but also health-damaging air pollutants. Furthermore, low-income households in particular often struggle to pay for the electricity and fuels they rely on to power their homes and vehicles.
In this analysis, we assessed opportunities and strategies to integrate pollution reduction, resilience to climate impacts (e.g. heat waves), and energy and environmental equity into these states’ decarbonization plans. To address long standing inequities created by the current energy system, we focus on each state’s most environmentally overburdened and socioeconomically vulnerable communities.
To do so, we:
- Identified regions and populations currently facing high cumulative emissions from fossil fuel production and use,
- Characterized household and transportation energy cost burdens and clean energy access across each state, and
- Identified decarbonization strategies that simultaneously reduce health-damaging air pollution and energy cost burdens while increasing climate resilience.
We find that decarbonization across Colorado, Nevada, and New Mexico has the potential to improve public health and reduce energy cost burdens. However, our analysis also suggests that these co-benefits may not accrue evenly across the state and that disparities in fossil fuel pollution and economic impacts may be exacerbated with a decarbonization strategy focused exclusively on carbon emissions. Instead, environmental and energy equity goals have to be built into decarbonization strategies from the beginning.
Our work for each state is a companion analysis to the Western States Deep Decarbonization Analysis for these states conducted by Evolved Energy, NRDC, Sierra Club, and Gridlab and available here. To analyze the impacts of deep decarbonization in each state, we analyzed four 2020-2050 decarbonization pathways developed by Evolved Energy and described in these companion reports.
PSE’s full analysis for each state, along with an executive summary with findings, conclusions, and recommendations, are available below.