By Maheen Ahmad, Elise Caplan, Blake McCarren, Constance Thompson, Daniel Wolf
After two long years, ACORE returned to in-person events with its 20th Anniversary Gala, Accelerate Member Forum and ACORE Policy Forum at the height of cherry blossom season in the nation’s capital.
20th Anniversary Gala
ACORE hosted a Gala on March 23 to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the organization’s founding at the Union Station Presidential Suite. ACORE was honored to present U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) with the Renewable Energy Champion Award.
“Senator Cortez Masto has been a steadfast champion for Nevada’s rich renewable resources, and the many thousands of clean energy workers across the Silver State,” remarked ACORE President and CEO Gregory Wetstone. “Senator Cortez Masto was especially instrumental in the development of the Clean Energy for America Act, critical legislation that would overhaul the federal energy tax code to level the playing field for renewable power. In this legislation and elsewhere she has promoted crucial policies that would modernize our electric grid and promote the deployment of renewable projects on public lands. We look forward to continuing to work with Senator Cortez Masto to accelerate the transition to a renewable energy economy.”
Accelerate Member Forum
On Wednesday, March 23 we hosted our Inaugural Accelerate Member Forum and convened 23 of our 25 Accelerate Membership Program companies for a day of business development, industry and policy briefings and networking sessions. Hosted by Meta, the Forum featured industry leaders representing top renewable energy investors, buyers, policy experts, marketing pros and industry engagement pioneers.
ACORE Policy Forum
The ACORE Policy Forum, which took place at the Convene event space in Washington, D.C. on March 24, included keynote remarks from U.S Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Michael Regan, National White House Climate Advisor Gina McCarthy, Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), and Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) Commissioner Willie Phillips.
The Forum also included engaging panels on the topics of clean energy tax policy, energy justice, renewable energy supply chains and trade policy, and competitive wholesale electricity markets.
Keynote Interview: Administrator Michael Regan, EPA and former EPA Administrator Carol Browner, Covington
Michael Regan, Administrator of the EPA, addressed Policy Forum attendees during a keynote interview with former EPA Administrator Carol Browner. The current and former Administrators discussed the potential ramifications of the West Virginia v. EPA case before the U.S. Supreme Court. Administrator Regan updated attendees on the suite of regulations the Agency is preparing to advance the Biden administration’s public health, climate and environmental justice goals, and how those regulations could inform long-term investment decisions in the power sector. Administrator Regan also called on the renewable energy sector to actively participate during the public comment phase of the Agency’s rulemaking processes.
“Everyone realizes that the science is real. The data is there. The question is: how do we transition while providing affordable, reliable and clean energy that keeps this country in a competitive position,” Administrator Regan said.
Keynote Interview: Gina McCarthy, White House National Climate Adviser
National Climate Advisor Gina McCarthy discussed the holistic implications of deploying clean energy by emphasizing its climate and human impacts. Clean energy not only mitigates climate change but also decreases consumer costs and ensures national security. To realize these multi-pronged benefits, the Biden administration has implemented a “whole of government” approach to advancing clean energy by passing legislation funding transmission expansion, developing the Justice 40 initiative to direct clean energy investment to historically marginalized communities, and enacting the Weatherized Assistance Program to ensure a resilient grid. McCarthy also assured that the Ukraine crisis would not distract President Biden from advocating for the passage of Build Back Better.
“The President is not going to back down…instead he’s going to double down. We’re going to do whatever it takes to get these investments over the finish line in Congress”, said McCarthy.
Panel: A Pivotal Moment for Clean Energy Tax
Panelists expressed optimism around Senate passage of the clean energy tax package and House passage of a climate bill. However, speakers stressed that the lack of long-term certainty is hurting the industry and that spiking energy prices due to supply chain issues and the war in Ukraine only increase the sense of urgency around passing a climate bill. Speakers highlighted the importance of long-term incentives for renewable generation, a new stand-alone storage ITC, incentives for high-voltage transmission and the direct pay program for deploying renewables and achieving higher levels of decarbonization. Congressional staff seemed confident a tax package would include a January 1, 2022 effective date for a retroactive PTC extension. The panel concluded with a discussion around the “Book Minimum Tax” pay-for and its potential impacts on accelerated depreciation benefits.
Panel: Advancing Policies for Energy Justice
Panelists emphasized the need for equity among both users and suppliers of energy in the form of energy cost savings for consumers, access to early-stage clean technologies, and deployment and distribution of clean power. In the way of solutions, panelists stated that the federal Justice 40 initiative and the program’s screening tool provide a good policy environment for achieving energy justice objectives. Going forward, the Administration should work to improve equity in regions that have historically experienced climate injustice, including tribal communities, and proactively ensure these communities are not harmed by the effects of the energy transition. Panelists also highlighted refundability as an important policy tool for enhancing access to funding for smaller developers.
Panel: Strengthening Renewable Energy Supply Chains Through Trade and Regulatory Policy
As trade and regulatory proposals threaten to slow clean energy deployment and hamper the Biden administration’s decarbonization goals, panelists outlined the risks associated with our reliance on foreign imports to power our transition to clean energy and identified the economic and national security benefits of onshoring our renewable energy supply chain. Panelists agreed that public investments can effectively spur domestic production while tariffs have often been harmful.
Panelists outlined the challenges of strengthening renewable energy supply chains, including risks associated with onboarding new suppliers, uncertainty related to policy and permitting, and global competition. Panelists noted that the industry is working hard to gather information on supply chain links and increase awareness of cybersecurity threats.
Keynote Interview: Senator Ron Wyden
Forum attendees also heard a virtual keynote from Senator Ron Wyden, Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. Chairman Wyden began his talk by characterizing the transition away from fossil fuels as the best means to reduce the influence of foreign autocrats. He expressed confidence that 50 Democratic votes for a clean energy tax package remain achievable in the coming months, and reiterated his calls for technology-neutral incentives as embodied in the Clean Energy for America Act. He expressed support for maintaining key elements of the clean energy tax platform passed by the House as part of the Build Back Better Act, including new credits for storage and high-voltage transmission, along with the direct pay program, which he said he would “go to the mat for.” The Senator also indicated he was aware of concerns that elements of the OECD Tier 2 program could effectively devalue renewable credits and expressed willingness to work with ACORE to ensure that renewable credits are protected in any future reconciliation package.
Keynote Remarks: FERC Commissioner Willie Phillips
Commissioner Willie Phillips from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) gave his first public speech since beginning his term. His comments addressed multiple issues of great importance to ACORE and our members, especially the critical need to expand the transmission system to both deliver renewable resources and improve reliability and resilience. The Commissioner also stressed the need for interconnection reforms and greater use of grid-enhancing technologies. In addition, he spoke about the centrality of environmental justice and the need to ensure that disadvantaged communities benefit from the clean energy transition.
Panel: Advancing Competitive Wholesale Electricity Markets
Panelists discussed the importance of transmission and the need for interconnection reforms, interregional transmission and transmission for offshore wind. In addition, speakers discussed the need to adapt energy and ancillary services markets to accommodate the growth of renewable resources, implementation of Order 2222 concerning distributed energy resource participation in the markets, the benefits of Regional Transmission Organizations, and the development of clean energy procurement policies for states and other buyers.
On behalf of the ACORE team, thank you to all who were able to attend the ACORE Policy Forum and Gala, especially our sponsors for helping make the events possible: