In the face of a warming climate and associated climate change impacts, the states of Colorado, Nevada, and New Mexico are embarking on ambitious multi-decade efforts to dramatically cut carbon emissions while confronting a growing need to build climate resilience. These states have recently set targets to expand renewable electricity generation while slashing economy-wide greenhouse emissions. They are now developing pathways and policies to achieve these goals. Their current fossil fuel-based energy infrastructure, however, is not only a source of greenhouse pollutant emissions, but also releases emissions of health-damaging air pollutants across each state. Furthermore, low-income households in particular often struggle to pay for the electricity and fuels they rely on to power their homes and vehicles. As Colorado, Nevada, and New Mexico reshape their energy systems to reduce greenhouse pollutant emissions, they simultaneously have a unique opportunity to address the uneven environmental public health and economic burdens the current energy system places on their populations.
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 the state’s decarbonization plans, with a 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 at: https://gridlab.org/works/western-states-deep-decarbonization/. 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.
Equity-Focused Climate Strategies for Colorado
Read PSE’s report Equity-Focused Climate Strategies for Colorado and the Executive Summary: Findings, Conclusions, and Recommendations.