The Race To Net Zero Energy

Unprecedented transformation in the renewable energy sector is driving economic opportunity and growth.

By Donna Clapp
From the November/December 2022 Issue

Climate change is longer conjecture, according to a recently released draft of the National Climate Assessment, a report created every four years by 13 federal agencies and hundreds of scientists and slated to be published in 2023. Increasingly, everyday citizens, and our economy are affected by the effects of a warming planet with coastal cities like Miami Beach, FL experiencing a frequency of flooding that has quadrupled in the past 20 years, and mountainous areas like Colorado losing revenue due to declining snowfall.

“By bringing together the latest findings from climate science, the report underscores that Americans in every region of the country and every sector of the economy face real and sobering climate impacts,” said John Podesta, a senior adviser to President Biden on clean energy.

renewable energy
(Image: Adobe Stock)

In August the federal government passed the largest climate spending package in U.S. history with which the federal government is incentivizing the transition to net zero carbon emissions. According to the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, as of August 2022, 33 states have released a climate action plan or are in the process of revising or developing one. This includes 29 states that have released plans and four states that are updating or developing their plans. And as of February 2022, 35 of the 50 largest cities in the U.S. by population had adopted local climate action plans.

Worldwide, the focus on reducing emissions has the renewable energy sector creating an unprecedented number of new jobs. In fact, the most recent data released by the International Renewable Energy Agency and the International Labour Organization is showing that employment in the renewable energy sector reached 12.7 million in 2021, a jump of 700,000 new jobs in just 12 months.

It is clear that more countries, cities, and communities are embracing technology and access to renewable energy such as solar, wind, water, thermo, and biomass power sources, and creating viable business opportunities and options for employment. Business leaders from across all industry sectors are adjusting their site selection, operational, and supply chain strategies as well. Here are some of the locations putting net zero action plans in place.

Florida Power & Light: Reaching Net Zero by 2045

Florida Power & Light Company (FPL) America’s largest electric utility has been focused on sustainability for decades providing clean, affordable, reliable electricity to more than 12 million people in 43 counties across Florida. Since 2001, FPL has saved customers more than $12.4 billion in fossil fuel costs while avoiding more than 183 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions through its power generation modernization. In 2019, the company announced a groundbreaking “30-by-30” plan to install more than 30 million solar panels by 2030. The company recently announced that 30 million panels will be installed by 2025. In June 2021, FPL dismantled the last coal plant in its fleet. In December 2021, FPL unveiled the world’s largest solar-powered battery. The Manatee Energy Storage Center has a 409-MW capacity and can deliver 900 MWh of energy—enough energy to power approximately 329,000 homes for more than two hours. In August, FPL announced that a record 16 new solar energy centers are simultaneously under construction across the state.

renewable energy
In August, Florida Power & Light announced that 16 solar energy centers are being built across the state. Shown here is Babcock Ranch Solar Energy Center in Punta Gorda, FL. (Photo: Florida Power & Light Co.)

In June of this year NextEra Energy, FPL’s parent company, became the first company to announce it will produce power with zero carbon emissions with their Real Zero™ plan.

“Real Zero™ means exactly that: Our goal is to achieve Real Zero™ by no later than 2045 … zero carbon emissions, 100% clean energy, at no incremental cost to our customers.” says John Ketchum, NextEra Energy’s Chairman, President, and CEO. “We plan to decarbonize ourselves, starting at FPL, with the most ambitious goal set by any U.S. utility or power provider to date, and the sector’s only one to not require carbon offsets. We aim to become the preferred U.S. partner for renewable energy infrastructure solutions of Fortune 1000 customers that are trying to achieve their own sustainability goals, especially in sectors with high electric use or high emissions. We plan to continue to build the nation’s leading competitive transmission business to help provide the backbone for the significant renewables expansion that we believe is coming.”

FPL’s history of being a renewable energy leader is compelling for companies looking at Florida as a location choice. Since its launch in 2011, PoweringFlorida, FPL’s economic development arm has helped nearly 250 companies locate or expand in the state, resulting in more than 110,000 new and retained jobs, and a nearly $90 billion impact on Florida’s economy.

One notable example is California-based Electriq Power Inc., who chose West Palm Beach, FL for its new corporate headquarters and Network of Digital Excellence (NODE) hub for its growing grid services operation. The company is a provider of intelligent, integrated home energy storage, management, and monitoring solutions.

“We’ve found West Palm Beach to be an ideal location to attract a diverse and talented team to the company from around the country,” stated Frank Magnotti, CEO of Electriq Power. “The West Palm Beach office will be the hub of our East Coast operations and a great location to showcase our latest energy management solutions and home energy storage.”

Vancouver, B.C.: Innovation, Infrastructure Drives Green Economy

The City of Vancouver, Canada, has been a global leader in climate change since their first climate action plan in 1990. In 2020, it was supplemented by the Climate Emergency Action Plan, and a new regional plan, Climate 2050, which aims to reduce emissions by 50% and 45% by 2030, respectively.

In Vancouver and across British Columbia, efforts are in action to invest in the creation of “Hydrogen Hubs” where local electrolysis of green hydrogen can take place toward net zero energy goals. (Photo: Fortis BC)

British Columbia and Vancouver already have a green advantage from its nearly 100% green electricity, which supplies about one-third of all energy use in the region. The region is also in the midst of transforming a large number of energy related systems locally as part of Climate 2050. One such transformation is the region’s efforts to invest in the creation of “Hydrogen Hubs” where local electrolysis of green hydrogen can take place.

The Metro Vancouver region’s burgeoning high-technology sector, leading research universities, and institutes, established hydrogen cluster, and standout cleantech firms means that the Vancouver has the building blocks to be a global research, engineering, commercial, and export leader in tomorrow’s economy.

“B.C. is a world leader in fuel cell technology for transportation, with major automakers and the fuel cell industry investing heavily in research and development in the province,” said Matthew Klippenstein, Regional Manager, Western Canada, and Branch Manager for the Canadian Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Association and Hydrogen BC. “We have the workforce, we have the applied research, and now we have one of the world’s fastest-growing industries. Now is the time to make the public policy, system-based, and structural changes necessary to support this industry’s regional growth and global commercialization.”

To that end, the  announced the return of the popular Angels for Climate Solutions, a program aiming to increase the flow of capital investment into B.C.-based, early-stage climate technology startups. Says VEC CEO Eleena Marley, “Angels for Climate Solutions provides the innovation ecosystem’s support of technology-based climate action and services that safeguard, restore and otherwise future-proof the environment for future generations.”

Growing City Of Fontana, CA Focuses On Air Quality

In southern San Bernardino County, CA, adjacent to major roadways—the City of Fontana is growing rapidly with industrial, commercial, and residential development expanding northward. It is expected that by 2025, Fontana’s population will surpass 250,000. Growth of this magnitude requires careful planning for the future to mitigate any impacts on the environment, public safety, infrastructure, housing, and economic vitality.

Fontana, CA
In the City of Fontana, CA, leadership is focused on ensuring that industrial development and other positive growth include mitigating environmental impacts. (Photo: City of Fontana, CA)

Air quality and responsible development have long been a strategic priority of the Fontana City Council. In September 2021, the Council commissioned a thorough Air Quality analysis. As a result of these findings the council adopted the Industrial Commerce Center Sustainability Standards Ordinance. The adopted ordinance ensures that all industrial development within the city exceed all federal and state environmental standards for warehouses and freight operations.

“This ordinance should serve as a model for other local governments across the State. We are proud to be leading the way,” said Mayor Acquanetta Warren.

A few ordinance highlights:

  • Solid screen buffering treatments/additional landscaping setbacks are required within industrial development adjacent to sensitive receptors
  • Anti-idling signs are required to be posted at warehouses to stipulate a 3-minute idling restriction
  • Orientation of trucking activities relative to sensitive receptors
  • On-site stacking requirements enhanced to alleviate off site stacking of trucks on public streets

New Orleans, LA: New Clean Energy Business Model And Hydrogen Power

In September, the U.S. Economic Development Administration awarded a $50 million federal grant to H2theFuture, a 25-organization partnership that plans to develop a new offshore wind-powered hydrogen energy industry cluster in south Louisiana.

“With clean hydrogen, we can remain an energy state—but become an energy state of the future that has less impact on the environment,” said Michael Hecht, President and CEO of , an economic development nonprofit. “When money and morality come together, you get stuff done.”

The State of Louisiana will supplement the grant money with $24.5 million in matching funds, boosting the total project budget to $74.5 million. H2theFuture aims to create a new clean energy business model in Louisiana. A document from GNO Inc. describes five areas of focus:

  • Workforce training to “upskill” displaced oil and gas workers, rural residents, and minorities, led by the Louisiana Community & Technical College System.
  • Business development to attract new and existing local and regional energy companies into the hydrogen value chain, led by the Baton Rouge Area Chamber, in partnership with One Acadiana, South Louisiana Economic Council, Southwest Louisiana Economic Alliance, and GNO, Inc.
  • Higher ed-based “testbeds” to conduct research of low-carbon hydrogen technologies at Nicholls State University, Louisiana State University, University of Louisiana at Lafayette, and University of New Orleans.
  • Public-private partnerships to “de-risk” green hydrogen investments at commercial scale, starting with development of a first-ever hydrogen fueling barge at the Port of South Louisiana.
  • Organizational and governance “nexus” to create a green hydrogen planning hub, to be located within The Beach at UNO.

California Is Tops, Maine Is Most Improved In Energy Efficiency

Energy EfficiencyCalifornia’s energy efficiency policies and efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions earn it the #1 spot on ACEEE’s 2022 State Energy Efficiency Scorecard.

“As the first state in the Gulf South to implement a Climate Action Plan, Louisiana has demonstrated the vision and leadership required to meet the historic challenge that climate change represents,” said Gov. John Bel Edwards. “This infusion of federal and state dollars, on top of the nearly $20 billion of private capital investment in Louisiana emissions reduction projects announced in the last two years alone, moves us closer to the ultimate goal: net zero carbon emissions by 2050.”

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