The future of clean energy post IRA could be in jeopardy

  • August 30, 2023
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  • Jon Powers, President

This summer we witnessed the hottest consecutive days the world has ever seen, wildfire smoke from Canada shut down New York City, record-breaking heat in the Southwest, and the waters off of Miami shattering climate records making it feel more like a hot tub than an ocean. The climate crisis touches our lives every day, and it is only getting worse. Now is the time for deeper action against the climate crisis and for leaders to rise to meet the demand that everyday Americans are asking for.   

Last August, the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) became the most significant piece of climate legislation in our nation’s history. Combined with the Bipartisan Infrastructure Act that also passed under President Biden’s legislation, we have the policies and public funding needed to catalyze private investment, scale key technologies, increase domestic manufacturing, and continue the momentum underway to deal with the climate crisis. If we execute on the promise of investing in climate solutions then we can put the U.S. on the path by 2030 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent lower than 2005 levels.  

The evolution of the marketplace over the last 20 years has brought alignment between policy, technology, and finance in a way that now public investment can be leveraged to unleash billions of private capital into climate action. Today, there are new and proven technologies that are critical to getting renewable assets built and that are dedicated to reducing carbon.  

Unfortunately, the fossil fuel industry and certain Republicans in Congress are still trying to undercut this momentum and turnback progress on climate action, and the IRA, by turning it into the new Obamacare. 

I have had a unique front row seat to the battle of addressing the climate crisis because I have worked on policy at the White House and the Pentagon, launched advocacy organizations with fellow veterans to fight for climate action, worked with ventures capitalist on cutting edge technologies, and co-Founded CleanCapital where we have invested more than $1 Billion into solar and energy storage projects. These experiences have shown me we are at a rare moment in history when policy, technology, and finance are all aligned in a way that can make lasting, generational, progress against the climate crisis. We are no longer in a position to take decades for progress. We need to execute on the opportunity in front of us and be the leaders in creating a new clean economy. 

On policy, the Federal legislation will unleash billions of dollars into modernizing our electricity grid, infrastructure for the surging demand of electric vehicles, increase manufacturing of climate technologies like solar here at home and so much more. This policy is possible because there is robust public support for climate action as Americans who think global warming is happening outnumber those who think it is not happening by a ratio of nearly 5 to 1. This progress aligns with the many state and corporate policies that have been developed over the last decade to get projects built, increase the demand for renewable energy, and create a workforce for the new energy economy.  

Recently, President Biden visited South Carolina, where a new facility being developed by Enphase Energy. This project will create 600 new jobs, provide technology to power thousands of homes with solar, and be part of the $500 billion already invested in clean energy manufacturing. Ironically, Republican Representative Joe Wilson who represents the area voted against the IRA and even recently voted to repeal the law. This highlights the political challenge we still face today and the type of short sighted opponents who are discouraging progress. 

Over the last decade, investors have become wise to the financial risk and opportunities of climate change. For example, insurers are pulling out of areas that have been experiencing severe weather events caused to climate change because the increased risks are too great, transitioning the burden of building in these areas onto investors. At the same time, major asset investors, infrastructure investors, pension funds and others now recognize the solid return opportunity that real assets like solar can provide. As a result, investment in renewable energy skyrocketed to $358 billion in the first six months of 2023.  

Unlike many other traditional markets, climate solutions have faced a robust resistance by the conventional players who have owned the market and many who are responsible for the climate crisis. Obamacare faced a similar resistance and was constantly under attack. Fossil fuel companies for instance have funded aggressive political and advocacy campaigns to undermine Federal policy, things like Facebook campaigns in local rural communities providing false information about solar energy to stop permitting of projects. Today, we see the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council being funded by fossil fuel interest and running Anti-Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) investment campaigns. Additionally, we have seen them passing laws at state capitals and handcuffing their state pensions from investing in climate positive funds. We must rally and fight back against these nefarious actors to ensure that policy, technology and finance continue to stay aligned, and not just hope policy makers and others will just make the “right” choice. 

As we take the time to celebrate the progress made around the one year anniversary of the IRA, this is not the time to spike the football. The great news is that it is working and since the Inflation Reduction Act was passed inflation has dropped. We are still far from the end zone and there is a lot of work to be done. Industry leaders, investors, and climate advocates in policy, technology, and finance must band together and go on the offensive to educate Americans on the generational opportunity at hand. We have the opportunity to create a new energy economy that represents both for the planet but also for their wallets. We can not allow Kevin McCarthy and the MAGA Republicans to turn this monumental legislation into Obamacare and dismantle the progress being made. I encourage you to contact our team today to discuss how your solar and storage projects can make the difference in the clean energy transition.