Growing Green Energy

Investments in renewable energy are driving job growth and site selection  decisions across the nation.

By Donna Clapp
From the July/August 2022 Issue

According to the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) report “World Energy Investment 2022”, the fastest growth in energy investment is coming from the power sector—mainly in renewable energy and power grids, and from energy efficiency. In fact, the global energy investment is set to reach USD 2.4 trillion by the end of 2022. Since 2020, the pace of growth has accelerated significantly to 12% with renewables, grids, and power storage accounting for 80% of total power sector investment. The good news from IEA is that investment in solar PV, batteries and electric vehicles is now growing at rates consistent with reaching the goal of global net zero emissions by 2050.

The global goal for net zero emissions is 2050, and in an effort to reach that goal, the Biden Administration looks to cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in half by 2030, while fully decarbonizing the power sector by 2035. To provide a sense of what that looks like, of all U.S. GHG emissions, electricity generation accounts for 25% and of that 60% comes from coal-fired plants with some of it from gas-fired plants. The 2015 Clean Power Plan (which never went into effect, but was the plan struck down by the Supreme Court recently, see sidebar on page 118 for details), was supposed to reduce emissions from fossil-fueled power plants by 32% by 2030 (based on 2005 levels of GHG emissions). Ironically, though that 2015 plan never went into effect, many states complied with the requirements as if it had taken effect and as such those targets were met already. Public policies favor decarbonization and have made renewable energy technologies cheaper and more reliable. Government incentives have made renewable energy investments affordable, and innovative technologies have made the costs for building wind and solar power plants lower. This combination is accelerating the transition to cleaner power in the U.S. Renewable energy has become a rapidly growing industry sector that is driving job growth in the U.S. according to the most recently released Department of Energy’s “U.S. Energy and Employment Report”, with 40% of all energy jobs being in the renewable energy sectors of solar, wind, energy storage, transmission, distribution, and efficiency, as well as electric vehicles.

renewable energy
(Photo: Adobe Stock by Malp)

Here are some of the locations around the U.S. where renewable energy infrastructure projects are being implemented:

Arizona Drives Innovation In Solar Power

“One of the most important measures a state can take to drive next-generation growth is to make sustainability a core part of its culture,” says Sandra Watson, President and CEO, Arizona Commerce Authority. “No place does that better than Arizona, where conservation and sustainability has been central to our identity since our state’s founding. In addition, states must establish an environment conducive to business success. Whether you’re a solar module manufacturer or aluminum pipe maker, you’re not going to expand in places with high costs. In Arizona, Governor Ducey has created a low-cost business environment with fewer regulatory burdens–one that empowers entrepreneurs to launch, build, and scale ideas to change the world.”

Research shows that for a region to be a leader in renewable energy, it has to lead by example by welcoming innovation that leads to cleaner, more sustainable energy consumption. A great example of that is the Clean Energy Commitment pledge Arizona Public Service (APS), Arizona’s largest utility, took in 2020 when it announced that it plans to supply 100% carbon-free energy by 2050, with an intermediate target of 45% from renewable resources by 2030. The utility is well on its way—projecting that it will end all coal-fired generation by 2031, seven years sooner than previously projected. Since announcing its Clean Energy Commitment, the utility is adding more than one gigawatt (GW) of clean energy resources to its diverse power supply.

“Arizona is one of the fastest growing states in the country and the power we provide communities and businesses is the backbone of our state’s prosperity, safety and well-being,” said Justin Joiner, APS Vice President of Resource Management. “There’s a historic population boom happening and it’s our job to plan and invest in an affordable energy future with long-term sustainability and reliability our customers can count on 24/7, 365 days a year.”

Another large Arizona utility, Tucson Electric Power (TEP) plans to get more than 70% of its power from wind and solar resources by 2035. In addition, by empowering innovation, Arizona has become an epicenter of technologies driving sustainability including electric and zero-emission vehicles, batteries, solar and other clean energy, biodegradable materials, freshwater science, agritech, and more. Currently nearly 300 solar companies operate in Arizona, along with a thriving electric vehicle and battery ecosystem that includes leaders like Lucid, Nikola, Atlis Motor Vehicles, Zero Electric Vehicles, KORE Power, LG Energy Solution, and Li-Cycle.