This Week in Clean Energy Wins: Week of 9/30
As Hurricane Ian tore through Florida, the Biden administration announced the deployment of billions of dollars in Inflation Reduction Act funds to fulfill Democrats’ promise of a turbocharged transition to resilient clean energy. Despite Republicans’ fear mongering about the unreliability of renewables, solar power is keeping the lights on for thousands of families in Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Fiona. Soon, millions of Americans will have access to these resilient, cheap energy sources through the Inflation Reduction Act’s investments, as evidenced by this week’s announcement from the Midwest grid operator (MISO) that, powered by a wave of renewable energy, the number of applications to connect new projects to the grid has doubled since the last period, itself a record.
In additional Biden administration news, the EPA opened a new office dedicated to environmental justice and announced a half a billion dollar investment in electric school buses, while the Department of Transportation announced that every state qualifies for EV charging funds. In order to fight off drought in the West, the Bureau of Reclamation mobilized billions of dollars in water conservation money. At a solar farm in North Carolina, Secretary Yellen touted the economic benefits of the IRA.
The Inflation Reduction Act inspired private companies to invest in new facilities in Arizona and Ohio, an explosion of business for a battery facility in Pittsburgh, a utility announcement that it would retire a gas plant in North Carolina for wind and batteries, and a surge in demand for solar from corporations in Michigan. It also inspired New York Governor Kathy Hochul to announce that New York would require all new passenger vehicles sold in the state to be electric by 2035. While Democrats’ investments in climate and clean energy helped make these wins possible, Republicans in Congress continue to deny climate change’s existence and vote against climate legislation. This contrast will weigh on voters’ minds when they reach the polls this November.
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President Biden ran on a message of climate action and won the presidency by a historic margin, particularly thanks to young voters and voters of color. These wins show how Democrats’ climate investments continued to pay dividends in communities this week.
Private sector wins:
The grid operator for the Midwest (MISO) announced that clean energy products drove the third consecutive record application period for connecting new generation. [E&E News, 9/28/22]
- MISO received 956 applications, representing 171 gigawatts of capacity. That’s double the amount of the previous period, which was itself a record.
- About 96% of the projects were renewable energy and battery storage.
- MISO attributes the surge in new interconnection requests to passage this year of the Inflation Reduction Act.
Heritage Battery Recycling announced the development of a new lithium-ion battery recycling facility in Eloy, Arizona. [Global News Wire, 9/28/22]
- The facility will process enough material for 50,000 EVs each year.
- The CEO of Heritage’s parent company, Cirba Solutions’ President & CEO, David Klanecky, cited the Inflation Reduction Act as the reason his company felt confident making the investment in the new facility.
GM invested $760 million to convert a factory in Toledo, Ohio to produce electric vehicle parts. [Reuters, 9/23/22]
- The facility currently employs 1,500 people, and GM said the shift will allow them to retain all of those employees.
- GM expects the EVs produced with the parts from the factory will qualify for some IRA tax incentives.
Duke Energy announced that incentives from the Inflation Reduction Act allow it to replace one 1,218-megawatt gas power plant with wind and battery storage by 2038. [Triad Business Journal, 9/27/22]
BP and Hertz announced they will partner to build a new national EV charging network. [Utility Dive, 9/28/22]
- BP Pulse, the company’s EV charging branch, aims to have more than 100,000 chargers by 2030, with about 90% of those rapid or ultra-fast chargers.
- Hertz plans to have a quarter of its fleet nationwide be electric by 2024.
A battery manufacturer in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania credits the Inflation Reduction Act with an explosion in their business. [Bloomberg, 9/27/22]
- The climate law “will be a catalyst for our business,” said Joe Mastrangelo, the company’s CEO.
- The company’s backlog of orders has ballooned to $457 million, compared with $5 million three years ago.
Demand for clean energy projects from corporations is driving new renewables in Michigan. [MiBiz, 9/25/22]
- Companies including Comcast, Ford Motor Co. and General Motors Co. have announced deals through their utilities to buy more clean electricity, leading to the development of new renewable energy projects in Michigan.
- The projects allow companies to realize some of the cost saving benefits of clean energy adoption.
Ford broke ground on its new electric vehicle facility in West Tennessee. [Manufacturing Business Technology, 9/26/22]
- Last year, Ford made a $5.6 billion investment in the facility, which will create 6,000 jobs and produce 2 million EVs per year beginning in 2025.
- The Inflation Reduction Act provides businesses with the certainty that there will be sufficient demand for them to make more investments like this.
A week after Hurricane Fiona, solar is keeping the lights on for those in Puerto Rico with solar-plus-battery systems installed in their homes. The grid, which was never fortified after Hurricane Maria in 2017, is still down across much of the island. [Canary Media, 9/23/22]
- The Biden administration has been hard at work responding to the disaster, and has pledged “100%” federal funding for debris removal, search and rescue, water restoration and shelter and food for the next month in Puerto Rico.
- Puerto Rico has access to funds from the Inflation Reduction Act and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to rebuild, deploy rooftop solar more broadly and build more resilient infrastructure to prepare for future hurricanes.
EPA Administrator Michael Regan announced the creation of a new Office of Environmental Justice and External Civil Rights. [Washington Post, 9/24/22]
- The creation of the new office will enshrine a commitment to environmental equity among the EPA’s top priorities, such as enforcing clean air and water standards. The change will shield environmental justice enforcement from the negligence of future administrations, where in the past it would shift wildly in priority.
- The office will oversee $3 billion in funding for the Inflation Reduction Act’s environmental justice block grants. The bill also provides some of the new funding that makes the office possible.
The Department of Transportation announced it has approved EV charging plans for all 50 states, opening access to $1.5 billion in funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. [U.S. Department of Transportation, 9/27/22]
- The announcement is a major step towards achieving net zero emissions in the transportation sector, which is the number one greenhouse gas emitting sector in the U.S.
- The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law makes $5 billion in total funding for EV charging available over five years.
The EPA announced it would nearly double the funding available for clean school buses this year due to increased demand from school districts across the country.
- EPA received around 2,000 applications from all 50 states requesting nearly $4 billion for over 12,000 buses.
- Using money from the Inflation Reduction Act, they nearly doubled the amount of money available for clean buses from $500 million to $965 million.
- The Inflation Reduction Act grants the agency $5 billion for low- and zero-emission school buses over the next five years. The EPA indicated they would release another $1 billion for FY 2023, and that they would likely hold a competitive grant competition to disperse some of the funds.
The Bureau of Reclamation announced plans to use Inflation Reduction Act money to combat the Western drought by incentivizing water conservation. [Inside Climate News, 9/28/22]
- The agency was granted $4 billion to combat drought in the Inflation Reduction Act.
- The money announced this week would go toward “short-term conservation” – to remove water-intensive grass in cities and suburbs, and to upgrade aging canals.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen touted the economic benefits of the Inflation Reduction Act in a speech at Cypress Creek Renewables in North Carolina. [Reuters, 9/27/22]
- “Climate change poses a grave risk to the productive capacity of our economy while also impacting its stability. To tackle these risks, we need to accelerate our transition to a clean energy economy.”
- “These investments will accelerate the transition to our green energy future and lower energy costs for American households and businesses. They will secure our energy supply against global price shocks. And they will provide good-paying, high-quality jobs across America – particularly in non-coastal communities that have suffered from disinvestment.”
- Every Republican in the North Carolina congressional delegation voted against the Inflation Reduction Act.
The Fed announced that six of the nation’s largest banks agreed to participate in its climate stress test. [Federal Reserve, 9/29/22]
- The banks are Bank of America, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, and Wells Fargo.
- The stress test will assess the banks resiliency to climate-related shocks to their investments, allowing them to better manage climate-related financial risk.
State & local announcements:
New York Governor Kathy Hochul announced that New York would require all new vehicles sold in the state to be electric by 2035. [The Hill 9/29/22]
- The announcement is a major step towards achieving net zero emissions in the transportation sector, which is the number one greenhouse gas emitting sector in the U.S. New York and California together make up 18% of the nation’s 103 million privately owned passenger vehicles.
- The Inflation Reduction Act makes such ambitious goals plausible by reducing the economic burden of the transition on consumers through tax incentives. California became the first state to make such a commitment shortly after the Inflation Reduction Act was passed.
- Passage of the Inflation Reduction Act caused BloombergNEF to revise their estimate of the share of electric vehicles being bought in 2030 from 43% up to 52%.
In an effort to reach their ambitious goal of net-zero emissions by 2030, Sacramento’s utility district purchased 200 megawatts of iron flow batteries, the largest-ever such investment in the U.S. [Canary Media, 9/27/22]
- The investment could prove to be a pioneering solution to the mismatch between daytime solar production and night time demand for electricity.
- The project is possible in part because of the Inflation Reduction Act’s 40% tax credit since ESS, the battery company, manufactures the batteries in the U.S. with prevailing wages. ESS is one of the only manufacturers that meet those requirements today.
- Republicans love to claim that solar energy is not viable because the sun doesn’t shine at night. In reality, a myriad of solutions exist for this problem, and this project could add another.