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Wake-Up Call: Robbie Orvis, co-author of Designing Climate Solutions

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Robbie Orvis is the Director of Energy Policy Design at Energy Innovation, where he works on the firm’s Energy Policy Solutions and Power Sector Transformation programs. For Energy Policy Solutions, he conducts analysis on which policies can most effectively help meet climate and energy goals. As part of this program, Robbie co-leads a project for the Chinese government to provide policy guidance for its 13th Five Year Plan and climate strategy.

Robbie is also a contributor to America’s Power Plan, a project of the Power Sector Transformation program that curates expert thinking on policy solutions for a clean, reliable, and affordable U.S. power system. For this project, he focuses on wholesale electricity markets and energy efficiency policy. His research on wholesale markets focuses on market designs and practices that help enable a high renewable energy future. Robbie’s work on energy efficiency policy focuses on how to design programs that can unlock greater energy efficiency investments using performance-based regulation.

Prior to joining Energy Innovation in 2014, Robbie received his Master of Environmental Management from Yale University. 

Robbie graduated with honors from the University of California, Berkeley with a B.S. in Society and Environment. Between his junior and senior years, Robbie interned at the Natural Resources Defense Council in D.C., working to help pass the cap-and-trade climate bill in the House of Representatives.

We know what we must do.  If we have any hope of a human future, we must take “immediate action” to address the climate crisis.  The good news is that “a low-carbon future is within reach and perhaps as cheap or cheaper than a high-carbon one.”

In order to prevent “the worst impacts of climate change,” we need to keep “global warming below 2°C through the end of the 21st century.”  In order to do this, we understand that we must achieve massive reductions in our greenhouse gas emissions.  We also know that the longer we delay, the more difficult and costly it will become in the future.

The authors write, “The physics of our earth thus give us the following imperatives: The problem is enormous, it is urgent, and failure would be irreversible.  Fortunately, there is still time to achieve a reasonable climate future, and many reasons to think it can be done.  But time is of the essence; this option does not last long.”

According to Harvey and Orvis, “Nearly 75 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions are generated by just 20 countries (over half of all emissions are generated by only seven nations).  Focusing efforts in these countries offers the highest potential for emission reductions.”  Within these countries, “emissions from energy combustion and industrial processes are the primary source of greenhouse gases, comprising more than 93 percent.”  Targeting these emissions “has the greatest potential for reductions.”

They also write, “For energy and climate policy to be effective, a suite of policies is needed; there is no silver bullet in this business.  To design an optimal suite of policies, a policymaker should consider policies of four broad types: performance standards, economic signals, support for R&D, and enabling policies.  Together, they create a powerful symbiosis that can drive deeper carbon emission reductions than policies in isolation while increasing cost effectiveness.”

Providing us, “a roadmap to a low-carbon future,” the authors are blunt: “Quite literally, there is no path to a low carbon future other than the list below.  Every policy idea must be measured against its contribution to one or more of these goals.”

Their list includes:

1)      Reduce electricity demand in the building and industry sectors;

2)      Reduce the carbon intensity of electricity generation;

3)      Reduce transportation emissions through efficiency, electrification and urban mobility;

4)      Reduce non-electricity industry sector emissions;

5)      Reduce deforestation and forest degradation in tropical forest nations.

In a few decades, we will know if we are on the right path to give future generations a chance at enjoying a stable planet close to the one we inherited.  Until then, there is massive work to be done.  We are fortunate that we have people like Harvey and Orvis and the other authors of this book to provide us with a clear, detailed map for the journey we must all take together.

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