A New Administration and a New Day for Clean Energy

By Jon Powers, Co-Founder and President of CleanCapital, and Adam Browning, Executive Director of Vote Solar. Published on CleanCapital.

Jon Powers (JP): As we celebrate the beginning of Joseph R. Biden’s term as the 46th President of the United States, we are also witness to historic uncertainty caused by several ongoing crises. While much of the national conversation continues to focus on our security, COVID-19, and the outgoing President, we wanted to step back from the fog to focus on something that is certain. Our country is standing on the precipice of a renewable energy decade that most of us could not have imagined even a few years ago. The combination of the incredible progress made by industry, policy progress happening at the state level, and the vision of the incoming Biden-Harris Administration has set the table for phenomenal growth in our sector.

The fundamentals of our industry have never been stronger:

  • Even with the headwinds that were created by the outgoing Administration, wind and solar power capacity QUINTUPLED over the 2010s from 36 GW to 183 GW.
  • We now have a well-trained professional workforce of over 3 million workers driving efficiency in the US.
  • The cost of renewable power now is not just competitive to fossil fuels, but has become the most cost-effective solution out there.
  • And capital markets have taken notice, investing nearly $40 billion dollars annually into clean energy assets.

State by State

Adam Browning (AB): The majority of energy decisions are made at the state level, and Vote Solar worked hand in hand with local partners to achieve big wins in 2020.

  • After a multi-year campaign in Arizona, the Arizona Corporation Commission voted ‘yes’ on 100% carbon-free electricity by 2050.
  • We saw similar clean energy commitments from California by 2030 and Virginia by 2045.

While these states are leading the charge, President Biden has committed to passing federal legislation that puts our country on the path to economy-wide net-zero emissions by 2050.

Every part of our population – especially LMI households and communities – must be prioritized in the fight for a clean energy future. We’re pleased to see more and more legislation at the state level honor that goal.

  • In Florida, the SolarTogether campaign passed the largest community solar program with low-income carve-outs in the country.
  • In New Jersey, Vote Solar worked all year to advance the Clean Energy Equity Act, an innovative bill that will help lower electricity bills for at least 250,000 low-income New Jersey families. We met some resistance, but our powerful, local and diverse coalition has paid off big time and we believe this will be a success.
  • In Massachusetts, the state legislature quickly passed a bold climate change and environmental justice bill, only to be vetoed by the governor. Although this state bill ultimately ended in defeat, we, along with our partners, are confident that it will pass in the next legislative session.

We hope the Biden Administration will see the changes taking place at the state level and make the federal transition to clean energy a just and equitable one.

The Future of Clean Energy

AB: We have an enormous opportunity to stimulate the renewable transition by investing in the communities who have already been doing the work for years. This year, we’ll move solar and other clean energy solutions forward through legislative and regulatory strategies in over 20 states. This will deliver immediate carbon-reduction benefits and support for equity, resilience, pandemic recovery, and choice in our energy system.

While we work to supercharge the deployment of solar at all scales — from rooftop installations, to community solar farms, to utility-scale solar power plants — we believe that achieving a 100% clean energy future requires paying specific attention to policies and partnerships that prioritize consumer participation, a commitment to equity and access and a robust portfolio of distributed energy resources. More and more states are buying into the economic benefits of updating their energy systems, and we look forward to helping draft the roadmap to renewable energy for each state based on their specific goals and needs.

Next Steps

JP: The incoming Biden Administration has set Climate Change as a top priority, really only second to the pandemic and economic crisis we are facing. This recognition is, of course, incredibly significant in and of itself, but it is also important to note that renewable energy is viewed by the Administration as part of a solution set for all three of these priorities.

In the coming days we expect the continued rollout of a bold, ambitious, and smart plan that focuses on decarbonizing the power sector, making significant infrastructure investments that have clean energy at the root of them, and an all-of-government approach to helping to unlock the market for continued growth. President Biden has selected seasoned and experienced leaders both at the White House and the Agencies to focus on first rolling back the damage done by the Trump Administration, and then executing on an agenda that ensures equitable and significant growth for our industry. You can read the high level details of the plan here.

It will still take some time for us to see these plans come to fruition, but when you combine the Federal support with the exceptional state-level progress achieved with the help of Vote Solar and the readiness of our industry to capitalize on these opportunities, the future for renewable energy has never been so bright. Now that the celebratory inauguration day champagne has been drunk, we are ready to get to work to save our country and climate.

Tune In:

Adam Browning was recently interviewed by host Jon Powers on Experts Only podcast for an important discussion about the upcoming year with the new White House Administration and how to drive clean energy access for all. Listen to Episode 82 here.

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