On the latest episode of the Squeaky Clean Energy Podcast, host Matt Abele talks with Bob Keefe, Executive Director of E2, a group of nonpartisan business leaders throughout the country. Abele and Keefe discuss a recent major event in energy policy history: the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act.
The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), signed by the President on August 16, 2022, includes several incentives that will help the country increase clean energy usage and reduce carbon emissions. The legislation would also further increase the number of jobs in the clean energy sector across the country.
Acceleration of Clean Energy Jobs
E2 has been tracking clean energy jobs for almost a decade. The organization is now working closely with the US Department of Energy to measure this job growth in clean energy sectors like solar, storage, and electric vehicles (EVs).
Keefe explained that clean energy jobs have been growing despite a hit in 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic pushed much of the economy to a halt. NC’s clean energy industry is bouncing back, though, with its current workforce having grown from 99,000 in 2020 to 104,000 in 2022. Market signals suggest that this trend is expected to continue an upward trajectory in the coming decades.
Economic Benefits of Clean Energy Policy
“The economy and the environment are not at odds, they really depend on one another,” said Bob Keefe, Executive Director at E2.
To emphasize the importance of clean energy policies and carbon emission reductions, Keefe outlined the increase in frequency and strength of major natural disasters hitting the United States. As an example, Keefe pointed to the $150 billion in damage from disasters in the US in 2021 alone. These impacts have been felt in our backyard as well. In 2018, NC saw nearly $17 billion in damage from Hurricane Florence.
Keefe shared that proactive investments in clean energy and associated policy could help mitigate some of these significant impacts down the road. Furthermore, these investments are easy to justify now with solar and wind becoming some of the cheapest forms of energy in many parts of the country, including NC. Additionally, EVs are now cheaper than gas vehicles in the long run, despite having a higher upfront cost.
The Significance of the IRA
The IRA marks a significant step forward in US clean energy investments, with Keefe referring to it as “the most historic and far-reaching climate and clean energy policy in the history of the planet.” He explained that the bill is as much about helping the economy as it is about helping to mitigate climate risks. While the path to final passage was long and tumultuous, the country received a shock this summer when it was announced that Senators Joe Manchin and Chuck Schumer finally reached a deal to advance the bill.
Some notable takeaways from the bill include investments into green banks, while also providing clarity for the future of the renewable energy investment tax credit – a ten-year extension at 30%. This extension creates the long-term predictability necessary for widespread investments from both consumers and clean energy companies.
Additionally, the IRA invests billions to support low- and moderate-income communities, along with communities of color via a national green bank.
According to Keefe, the IRA has two major takeaways: 1.) it puts the country on track to reduce carbon emissions by 40% by 2030, while also achieving the international climate goals laid out by the Paris Agreement in 2015, and 2.) it invests in the business innovation and expansion necessary to “save the planet.”
The IRA demonstrates that progress can be made quickly, and that policy matters. Businesses cannot usher in a clean energy transition alone, but rather, government participation is required to create financial incentives and drive change. Keefe said that although we do not have all the answers, there is promise is market innovation and collaboration to create impactful solutions.
Listen and subscribe to the Squeaky Clean Energy Podcast wherever you stream to hear the full conversation, and be sure to check out our latest blog post that delves into the provisions of the bill. And remember to read Bob Keefe’s book, Climatenomics, to learn more about the importance of clean energy investments!