(The Center Square) – Louisiana’s efforts to reduce carbon emissions and transition to clean energy has drawn over $50 billion in private investments in recent years, one of many measures of progress highlighted by a legislative task force.
“In the private sector, capital is moving to the energy transition in unprecedented ways,” Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards told the Climate Initiatives Task Force on Thursday. “This is about a global energy transition that’s taking root right here in Louisiana, and one that’s going to have tremendous economic benefits for our state and our people for generations to come.”
In the last six years, the private sector has announced more than $50 billion in low carbon and carbon-free projects in Louisiana, which are projected to create over 23,000 jobs, he said.
The meeting centered on progress on the state’s climate action plan, which calls for reducing net greenhouse gas emissions by 26%-28% of 2005 levels by 2025, 40%-50% by 2030, and to reach net zero emissions by 2050.
Efforts toward those goals are in large part federally funded by $9.11 billion in recent years. The money includes $3.83 billion for roads, bridges and safety; $1.57 billion for internet; $1.29 billion for clean energy; $353 million for airports, ports and rail; $258 million for clean water systems; $202 million for public transportation; $164 million for electric vehicles; and $164 million for environmental remediation.
The spending has so far resulted in nearly 700 ongoing projects, including 474 in disadvantaged communities. Some of the bigger ticket items include a $603 million regional direct air capture hub, $250 million for electric grid resilience work, $320 million for a battery materials processing grant program, and $60 million for the Department of Natural Resources to plug orphaned oil and gas wells.
Jackson Wright, director of special projects in the governor’s office, said the state has also continued to pursue other federal grants, from Solar For All community solar grants, to transportation funding through the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure program, to clean school bus grants.
While many of the programs are still in development, officials noted significant progress on several fronts, including 636 orphaned wells plugged in the last year.
“We estimate we eliminated 383 metric tons of CO2 per year by plugging those wells,” Chris Sandos, regulatory division director for the Department of Natural Resources, told the task force.
Davante Lewis, commissioner on the Louisiana Public Service Commission, highlighted efforts to guide the state’s utilities to 100% clean renewable energy by 2035.
The state’s energy portfolio currently only includes about 3% renewable energy, he said, and the commission is working toward developing a renewable portfolio standard to boost that figure.
“While we are doing that, the commission has accelerated a lot of new resources,” he said. “We just approved over 200 megawatts of solar capacity for our local co-ops. We are currently reviewing Entergy who is seeking an expedited approval of a three gigawatt solar power. And we’re also looking at off-shore wind and the new leases in the federal waters and multiple contracts for projects in state waters.”
Other discussions centered on local planning efforts, an EPA Climate Pollution Reduction Grant and Priority Climate Action Plan, and new regulations to incentivize operators to plug orphaned wells.