Op-ed: Clean Energy Drives a Competitive America 

The Hill published an op-ed by CRES President Heather Reams and Business Council for Sustainable Energy (BCSE) President Lisa Jacobson outlining the recent release of the BCSE 2024 Factbook.

Clean energy is good business, and America is stronger and more competitive because of its clean energy investments.  

According to the newly released 2024 Sustainable Energy in America Factbook from the Business Council for Sustainable Energy (BCSE) and BloombergNEF, 2023 was yet another record-breaking year for clean energy deployment and investment. 

Despite serious market headwinds, from an inflationary price environment and supply chain difficulties to challenges presented by interconnection queues and lengthy permitting processes, clean energy businesses found a way to thrive. 

The result? A more diversified energy portfolio, increased clean energy investment and improved energy productivity. And while these results are good for business, they are even more beneficial for the United States as a whole — creating jobs, promoting economic prosperity in communities across the country and strengthening our nation’s energy resilience.

The Factbook shows what we, as leaders of BCSE and Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions (CRES), understand: A diversified energy portfolio — with a foundation of energy efficiency, natural gas and renewable energy — is optimizing economic growth for the United States. 

In 2023, the combination of natural gas (43 percent) and renewable energy (23 percent) provided the majority of U.S. electricity demand. Zero-carbon power, which includes renewables generation plus nuclear power, accounted for an all-time high of 41.1 percent of all output.

Investments to meet future demand for clean energy also grew. An estimated 40.5 GW of new utility-scale power generation and storage capacity was commissioned — the most in 20 years. The level of new natural gas-fired power generating capacity rose to 9 GW. Energy storage set a record for the fourth year in a row with 6.2 GW added. 2023 also marked the first year new nuclear capacity was brought online since 2016. For reference, 1 GW of power generation is equivalent to what’s needed to power 100 million LED 10-watt lightbulbs. 

Federal tax credits helped increase the number of clean tech manufacturing facilities to 104, representing $123 billion in announced investments. These tax credits also boosted the market for hydrogen and carbon capture and storage, which saw an 82 percent and 68 percent increase, respectively. This landmark investment year foreshadows considerable progress on key technologies for years to come. 

An increasingly market-friendly environment has allowed clean energy businesses to recognize the value of building in the United States, and thanks to our shared mission to promote innovation and an all-of-the-above energy portfolio, the U.S. economy’s growth coincides with emissions reduction. Last year, the U.S. total greenhouse gas emissions returned to a downward trajectory, dropping 1.8 percent. 

As new investment strengthens the economy, it also increases our energy efficiency, which is good for both consumers and businesses. In fact, energy productivity grew 3.8 percent in 2023, an increase of 101 percent since 1990. This long-term trend not only reduces emissions here at home but lowers global emissions and strengthens our global competitiveness. 

However, sharpening our competitive edge requires us to solve the biggest obstacle facing clean energy development: the broken process for energy infrastructure projects to secure necessary permits and exit the interconnection queue. As of January 2024, over 1,100 GW of projects are undergoing interconnection studies in the seven U.S. independent system operators. The average time for a project in the interconnection queue is between one and seven years. That’s unacceptable. 

These delays threaten the number of companies that have the capital to take the risk of embarking on a clean energy project. BCSE and CRES urge policymakers to pursue commonsense, bipartisan permitting and siting reforms to efficiently deliver clean energy across the country. 

Recent policy investments in clean energy that boost America’s economic competitiveness and global market position indicate what we know to be true: clean energy is good business. The record levels of private sector investment in both the U.S. and around the world tracked by the 2024 Sustainable Energy in America Factbook paint an optimistic picture for the future of clean energy in the United States. Let’s continue working to build a stronger, more competitive America.

Lisa Jacobson is the president of the Business Council for Sustainable Energy (BCSE). Heather Reams is the president of Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions (CRES).

Read the full op-ed here.

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