We at the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy celebrate the historic scope of the Inflation Reduction Act as momentous and urgently needed, yet also recognize that the investment is not a cure-all but rather an overdue federal component to combat the climate crisis. Together, an all-hands-on-deck determination is required to mitigate the worst effects of climate change, including deadly temperatures and storms, wildfires, droughts, and floods, all of which are increasing in frequency and intensity.Stephen Smith and SACE Staff | August 16, 2022
Today, President Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) into law, following passage by the U.S. House of Representatives on August 12 and the U.S. Senate on August 7. As the largest single climate investment at the federal level in U.S. history, the IRA invests $369 billion in climate and clean energy solutions and environmental justice actions. If implemented as intended, the sweeping bill will move our country toward reducing carbon emissions 40% from 2005 levels by 2030, setting us on the pathway to the 50% emission reduction goal by 2030 that the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has determined is necessary to mitigate the most catastrophic effects of climate change.
We at the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy celebrate the historic scope of the Inflation Reduction Act as momentous and urgently needed, yet also recognize that the investment is not a cure-all but rather an overdue federal component to combat the climate crisis. This federal investment is a necessary cornerstone for climate action and clean energy commitments that must accelerate in all sectors of the economy on all levels — including state and local governments, the utilities that generate and deliver our electricity, corporations, and the collective actions of citizens. Together, an all-hands-on-deck determination is required to mitigate the worst effects of climate change, including deadly temperatures and storms, wildfires, droughts, and floods, all of which are increasing in frequency and intensity.
Unite in purpose as the ‘Clean Energy Generation’
Dr. Stephen A. Smith, Executive Director of SACE, said, “The severity and urgency of the climate crisis calls us to unite in focus and purpose, to become the ‘Clean Energy Generation.’ Not a generation that’s selectively defined by age or demographics but all of us at this critical moment coming together with resolve and intention. Similar to those known as the “Greatest Generation” of Americans who united in common purpose against an evil enemy during World War II, we must now bind together through individual and collective actions to face an unprecedented historic challenge.
“As the Clean Energy Generation, each of us must play our part, no matter how small, to collectively and literally generate clean energy and shift our future path away from climate disruption to embrace carbon-free solutions that allow future generations to thrive. With today’s federal government action now joining state and local climate actions that are collectively happening in all sectors at all levels, we have the tools to rise to our challenge and become the Clean Energy Generation.”
SACE celebrates the IRA investments and incentives that will make the adoption of electric transportation, solar, wind turbines, battery storage, and energy efficiency measures powering our homes and public and commercial buildings more attainable, affordable, and widespread. For example:
- Large-scale investments in clean and renewable power generation, such as quadrupling the number of solar panels operating in the U.S., to nearly a billion by 2030, will lower the cost of electricity for all households.
- Millions of households in the U.S. will be able to heat and cool their homes more efficiently through tax credits and rebates that will lower the cost of electric appliances, electric HVAC and water heaters, heat pumps, rooftop solar, and home weatherization improvements.
- Financial incentives will enable more people to obtain new and used electric vehicles, which cost much less than gas vehicles do to fuel and maintain.
- Energy costs will go down for everyone — not just those who receive direct financial incentives for home improvements or EVs — as the policy continues to reduce the overall demand for fossil fuels.
- Overall, the bill is estimated to save thousands of lives annually and improve public health issues like asthma and respiratory illnesses by substantially reducing pollution.
- Tens of billions of dollars will be allocated for environmental justice and disadvantaged communities on the frontlines of the climate crisis.
- More than a million jobs will be created through investments to increase domestic clean energy manufacturing.
State, utility, and local policies must play starring roles
The bill is a hopeful and significant step toward responding to the climate crisis, but it’s not perfect. Handouts that appease the fossil fuel industry’s stranglehold on our economy and environment as well as initiatives that don’t go far enough to advance long-overdue environmental justice provisions are two glaring shortcomings. The IRA is a solid starting point, but how far it will take us beyond what’s allocated in the bill depends on how well we couple the investments with bold state, utility, and local policies.
In the Southeast, we have been tracking the slow but steady sea change of climate actions that are swelling throughout the region on state, local, utility, and individual levels.
For example, North Carolina is making bold strides in the state’s commitment to transform to a clean, equitable economy by reducing carbon emissions to at least 50% below 2005 levels by 2030 and achieve net-zero emissions no later than 2050. Hundreds of cities and towns, like Nashville, Tennessee, and Athens, Georgia, have made commitments to achieving 100% clean or renewable energy. States and cities throughout the Southeast are investing in climate policies that are quickly boosting the region’s economy, which is poised to be the electric vehicle manufacturing hub of the U.S.
Major utilities in the Southeast are also accelerating plans to transition to renewable sources of energy, notably NextEra Energy which recently announced a “Real Zero” plan to eliminate carbon emissions from its operations by 2045. Equally encouraging, more individuals than ever, across all ages and demographics, are stepping up to learn how they can play a part in advancing climate solutions, no matter how small an action or change may seem.
Drive change at the ballot box as well as the breaker box
Chris Carnevale, SACE’s Climate Advocacy Director, said, “The Inflation Reduction Act will bring benefits for generations to come. But it is a set of tools for a job that will take many hands working in concert to realize its potential. Looking forward, we all need to do our part not only at the breaker box but also at the ballot box, to hold elected officials accountable and together build on this success to solve the climate crisis and create a future where all of us and our children can thrive in a healthy environment and economy.”
SACE will continue to be a leading voice of the Clean Energy Generation in the Southeast as our region helps forge the path to meet the challenge of unprecedented climate change head-on.