It's time to act on the Clean Power Plan

An underground coal mine
Shutterstockmarketlan
An underground coal mine: Don't expect light at the end of this tunnel.

It seems that the cleantech community is largely in a state of tunnel vision and self-delusion. The tunnel vision is the belief that you can grow a company while ignoring the public policies that affect your industry. The delusion is that somebody else is watching out for your best interests in the policy debates that affect your company’s future.

Recently I was on stage at the GreenBiz VERGE conference along with three expert panelists in the arenas of cleantech business and policy. Our intention was to grab the audience by their nametags and ask:

Are you protecting your company's interests? 

Are you fulfilling your obligation to your investors and stockholders? 

Because if you’re not front and center in the cleantech policy war, then you're derelict of duty.

The announcement this week by the head of the Environmental Protection Agency is a very big case in point. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt announced plans to rescind the single-biggest clean energy growth policy in the country — the Clean Power Plan. 

The CPP sets the framework for states to reduce carbon emissions from existing power plants by about 30 percent by: investing in more renewable energy generation; reducing demand through energy-efficiency technologies for homes, schools and commercial buildings; or by cleaning up or replacing outdated power plants that run on dirty fossil fuels. 

All of these avenues provide a strong market signal for low-carbon, 21st century energy technology innovation, investment and deployment — and would create an estimated 560,000 jobs across the country. In fact, more than 3 million Americans work in clean energy.

In Pruitt’s home state of Oklahoma, about 15,000 people have jobs in solar, wind and energy efficiency, according to the Department of Energy. In Kentucky, where Pruitt visited Monday to announce the rollback, about 23,700 people work in energy efficiency and 1,700 in solar. By comparison, 12,000 Kentuckians work in coal mining.

Instead of recognizing and supporting the clean economy as the country’s most powerful growth engine, Pruitt and his boss are pushing their thumbs down hard on the scale to promote outdated, dirty and more expensive fossil energy. If they accomplish their goal, your business — and our country — will be at a self-inflicted competitive disadvantage with the rest of the world.

My fellow panelists on stage at VERGE and I have spent years advocating for state and federal policies that promote growth in the wide spectrum of resource management and efficiency technologies collectively called the cleantech industry. That includes renewable energy and related technologies such as energy-IT, storage and transmission; fresh water management; building efficiency; advanced transportation; and agriculture and food technology — in short, every company represented at that conference. 

We were united in our message: Business leaders in the clean economy must step up and engage in the policy debate or suffer the consequences.

But here’s the good news: Cleantech business leaders and their employees have much more political clout than they’ve exercised so far. The EPA soon will solicit feedback from the public about their scheme to kill the Clean Power Plan.

Here's what you should do

Submit a comment to the EPA directly by email with "Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OAR-2017-0355" in the subject line (or email us your comment with your name and we will submit it on your behalf). Tell the EPA and Pruitt that you support the Clean Power Plan and the incentives it provides to companies such as yours around the country.   

Tell them how many jobs you’ve created and where those jobs are. 

Tell them about the supply chains you’re sustaining with your business. 

Tell them about the cost savings to consumers, the public health benefits and the contribution to the nation’s energy security that your company provides. 

And tell them how your company creates export opportunities and makes this country more competitive in a global economy that is fast transitioning to 21st-century energy systems — because the advantages of cleaner, cheaper, more reliable energy extend to every part of the American economy.

If you think it’s daunting to go it alone, then join an advocacy organization such as mine, E2. Encourage your company, your employees and your partner companies — clients, customers and investors — to engage actively with you.

Now is the time to get off the sidelines. Americans working in clean energy — and their families — already rely on your companies and on your industry leadership. Now they’re relying on your voice to protect the clean energy economy.

Tags: