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| 06/08/16

‘Cascadian’ leaders from BC to California want coastal electric highway


West Coast leaders have signed a cross-border climate agreement that would see an electric-vehicle charging network from Vancouver to Los Angeles, and perhaps in the future an integrated power grid throughout the region.

Representatives from the governments of BC, Washington, Oregon and California and the cities of Los Angeles, Oakland, Portland, San Francisco, Seattle and Vancouver met last Wednesday in the Golden Gate city to sign the Pacific North America Climate Leadership Agreement.

The accord—covering a region home to some 53 million residents and sometimes romantically referred to as ‘Cascadia’—aims at an integration of low-carbon policies and achieving common metrics and standards across all jurisdictions, emphasising buildings, transport, waste and energy.

The signatories hope to build a Pacific coast charging network along major highway systems from BC to southern California. This would build upon the West Coast Electric Highway initiative that has funded the build-out of a network of fast charging stations located every 25 to 50 miles along major roadways in Washington and Oregon, with the I-5 highway serving as the backbone. In February, California announced it would also be participating and filling in the numerous gaps that exist. Los Angeles will soon be the city with the highest absolute number of charging stations in the US, while Portland and San Francisco already have the highest per capita.

The jurisdictions also commit to developing both consumer incentives to encourage uptake of zero-emission vehicles, and requirements that manufacturers and retailers increase the volume and variety of such vehicles for sale. The rationale is that if similar policies along the west coast are implemented, this pools consumer demand that auto companies have to respond to.

The states, cities and province have set a target of 10 percent of municipal, utility and private sector vehicle fleets to be zero-emission vehicles, although no date for this to happen by was adopted.

Unusual for similar sorts of agreements internationally, a major emphasis was placed on reducing greenhouse gases from waste

The accord also commits the jurisdictions to collaboration on energy efficiency in buildings, in particular by achieving harmonized reporting standards. Currently US cities along the coast have created common benchmarks. The aim is to extend this throughout the region. The carbon intensity of heating fuels should also be reduced via aligned regulations, although again no hard percentages or deadlines were attached to this goal.

Unusual for similar sorts of agreements internationally, a major emphasis was placed on reducing greenhouse gases from waste, which currently represents 6.1 percent of BC’s emissions, via investment in composting and organic-waste recycling infrastructure.

Although not formally included in the pact, discussions also emphasised a “stronger emphasis than in the past” on ocean acidification, according to a BC government statement. BC environment minister Mary Polak, who attended the San Francisco pow-wow, said that the talks also explored the “incredible potential” of a regional integration of the electricity grid. The US west coast electricity grid is highly fragmented, which prevents sharing of energy across large areas and therefore impedes the integration of wind and solar power.


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West coast leaders collaborating on an electric highway, energy efficiency, composting and grid integration

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