In the year since the passage of landmark climate legislation some $269bn in capex investment has surged into clean energy generation and manufacturing – with Republican voting areas the biggest beneficiaries – a new report by industry group American Clean Power Association (ACP) found.
The clean energy advocate reported that at least 83 new and revitalised clean energy manufacturing facilities and 185GW of new generation projects are in the works, and more than 30,000 new jobs have been created.
“After decades of contentious political battles over energy taxation and regulation, we are coalescing around a national energy strategy anchored in private sector investment and innovation, a policy of abundance rather than deprivation,” said ACP CEO Jason Grumet.
The advocacy group released its report, Investing in Clean Energy in America on 7 August, highlighting the profound impact that the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) passed last August is having on the nation’s power generation and manufacturing sectors.
The law directs some $369bn in federal incentives towards renewables primarily through generous tax credits aimed at meeting the Biden administration's goal of a grid powered entirely by clean energy by 2035.
Most of this investment is flowing into traditionally conservative regions of the country despite the IRA being passed along partisan lines by the then-Democratic controlled Congress.
ACP sees 80% of new generation and 60% manufacturing funding going into congressional districts currently held by Republicans and/or states that voted Republican in the most recent presidential election.
Much of the reason for this is in the nation’s geography.
“Companies are building the projects where they will be the most effective and generate the most resources,” said Grumet in a press conference 4 August to discuss the report.
“The places that are the windiest and the sunniest tend to be in the middle of the country, in the Southwest, and in the Southeast,” Grumet observed, all traditionally conservative areas of the US.
Industrial strongholds in the Midwest and Southeast have seen much of their manufacturing capacity idled or diminished over the last 20 years, “so it's no surprise” that these traditionally red regions “are most excited about bringing these industries back,” said Grumet.
“The politics are always going to be frayed but when it comes to doing business, electrons don't care,” he added.
Much of the investment is conditional on permitting reform and transmission upgrades that have so far eluded Congress and could be abandoned if the projects don’t happen at a faster pace.
“We're moving faster than ever before, but not nearly fast enough to achieve the national priorities of this country,” said Grumet.
To further the wave of new projects, “we're going to need permitting reform,” said Frank Macchiarola, chief policy officer for ACP, who added that they are urging Congress to pass measures addressing permitting when it returns from the August recess.
Macchiarola said the US trails its international peers in addressing inter-regional transmission, and “again, we need Congress to act on reforms that will help achieve the clean energy revolution.”
Offshore wind is in a particularly vulnerable state, Macchiarola said, noting that the industry has made headlines for the expanding number of projects that were approved years ago but have been delayed due to a slow process that has rendered them no longer economically viable amid rising inflation and interest rates.
“The fact is our industry can absorb costs, but we can't absorb costs if we don't have predictability and permitting certainty along the way,” he said.
“The future of offshore wind and the Biden climate agenda really does hang in the balance right now.”