In 2009, 10 states ratified the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative which caps the GHG from power generation in these states and puts on the market the fees collected for those 25 MW or higher power plants. NJ left RGGI in 2012 and the cap was reduced then and in 2014.
Critics of the program, like Americans for Prosperity branch in NJ, framed the whole plan as a cross-border state tax that fueled “an unachievable, utopian vision of a 21st-century economy powered by expensive and inefficient solar panels and wind turbines.” Opponents have quickly forgotten how broken the fossil fuel system was in the wake of Hurricane Sandy and even “inefficient” clean energy would have been better than the gridlock of no fuel or power caused when supply was cut. Clean energy would have brought NJ back online almost immediately. Of course, efficiency of solar power in particular has made amazing strides and anyone who has lived through this particularly brutal winter would have appreciated any alternative to the high cost of fossil fuel for home heating. Even on the coldest days, sunshine makes a massive difference to how much fuel is needed to heat homes. Anyone who has raised their face to the sun to soak it in while shoveling snow understands this.
I choose to focus on are the success stories. State and local budgets are slashed year after year, particularly for schools, so the proceeds from a market based approach are a windfall for communities to build new infrastructure of energy-efficiency and independence for old, weather beaten buildings. The power created by clean energy projects funded from RGGI reduces costs for citizens and businesses that would be taxed to build new fossil fuels power plants.
RGGI is not the final solution to GHG emissions or conversion to renewable energy economy. It shows what can happen at the State and Regional level, how efficiency can be driven by the market and that penalizing the inefficient and fossil driven to pay for renewable can upgrade communities and drive state and local economic growth.