The Evergreen Action Path to Reaching 100% Clean Energy Can your business make the transition to a clean-powered future?
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The current United States Administration has an ambitious goal: Cut carbon emissions and reach 100% clean power by 2035. Is this even possible? A new report from the Evergreen Action organization, partnering with NRDC (Natural Resource Defense Council), charts just how it could be done.
Making it over the last stretch
The good news is that in recent years, the United States has come very far in growing its renewable energy sources, providing much cleaner electricity than in the past. These leaps and bounds in growth have led to an important question for the future: Where do we go from here?
In many respects, the first clean energy targets were the easiest to meet, requiring the least effort and focusing on the areas that are easiest to change. The targets remaining for the 2035 goal are more difficult. They are likely to require more resources and regulations to meet, as well as a significant shift in the industry and public thought about how energy works.
Governments have many tools to help cross this gap, but taking action quickly is essential. Businesses should now consider potential rebates and funding options to save time.
Utilizing the clean air act and EPA to Revolutionize the Power Sector
The EPA has significant authority to regulate certain business activities that can pollute the environment and threaten the health of citizens. That can include regulating carbon production and fuel exhaust through the Clean Air Act and other measures. But it also needs to include enforcement, something the EPA has traditionally failed at: As the Evergreen Action report indicates, 39 states have currently failed to submit articles like regional haze SIPs (Sharing Information on Progress) as required by law. That cannot continue if energy goals are reached.
How does EPA action help move to clean energy? Part of the label "clean" means that these sources naturally produce little or no exhaust or fumes: Compare what an electric vehicle does to the air around it vs. a gasoline engine, and it's easy to see how that effect can multiply when applied to an entire city – or a power plant.
That gives businesses a few different options to act on. Those that may encounter carbon reduction requirements in their industry should start planning on new energy sourcing now. Compliance will become more important than ever. California's carbon restriction program from the last several years is a good example of where many other regions could be heading.
Building on the efforts of the IRA (Inflation Reduction Act)
The IRA was passed in 2022 and included many measures to help grow the U.S. economy. Part of that was the largest investment in the clean energy sector that the country has ever seen. In the coming years, America must focus on using those funds to make the maximum difference.
One of the most critical efforts resulting from the bill is an investment in new infrastructure needed for clean electricity transmission. That infrastructure is much easier to develop in urban areas, such as with convenient EV battery chargers in parking lots. Rural areas face significant challenges. That's why the IRA includes a vital $12.8 billion for rural utility financing. This money is designed to help rural areas transition to clean sources of power, forgive debts associated with high-carbon fuel sources so they can be more easily retired, and much more. It also provides funding for new public transmission lines and other important components that will be needed to meet future goals.
The IRA includes tax credits and other various tools to help encourage businesses to adopt clean energy practices. If your business (especially those involved in any kind of energy or infrastructure work) hasn't looked at IRA programs, now is the time to begin. Brushing up on government bid experience is also advisable.
Funding alternative sources of power, including nuclear and wind
The federal government also has many ways to encourage and fund research and adopt alternative energy technologies. That includes Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund, State Climate Grants and other "Force Multipliers" programs to help advance energy goals. Clean sources of power, including more wind farms and the adoption of small nuclear reactors, will be required to meet goals, and their growing use should be met by efforts to educate the public on their benefits and safety.
These competitive grants can help a variety of businesses. Still, it's essential to bring in (or consult with) expert grant-writing services to ensure that the organization is dotting all the i's and mastering the details necessary to qualify.
Possible vs. Practical
These steps are all possible – mechanisms exist to implement them. But, of course, there is another question: How practical are they given today's political climate? Such broad changes need broad political buy-in and consensus, which does not currently exist in the United States. Congress is currently split between parties with very different ideas about energy and regulations. Any additional laws or changes are likely to either not have enough votes to pass or to be met with lawsuits that will eventually arrive at the Supreme Court.
This situation doesn't look likely to be resolved any time soon. But to meet our important goals in the 2030s, an energy agreement is required. Part of the solution lies in greater awareness and firmer plans, which means studies like this are vital. Other solutions lie with individual efforts by states and green energy initiatives from companies around the country. That means businesses must stay on their toes, watch for opportunities and prepare for a future where energy choices are more important than ever.