All posts by Lisa Jacobson

The President’s View: Making strides towards our goals of a cleaner, more resilient energy future

This fall, we have witnessed tremendous progress on the Business Council for Sustainable Energy's clean energy and climate change policy priorities in the federal and international arenas.

When Congress and President Biden signed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) into law in early November, they made a significant down payment on improving America's energy infrastructure. This bill included investments in innovation and research, development and deployment programs, clean energy integration, clean transportation and resilient infrastructure.

Congress and President Biden are already working on the next level of clean energy investment and climate ambition in the United States: the Build Back Better Act. Together, these two pieces of legislation are notable in terms of the scale and durability of the policies, as well as breadth and scope of the technologies covered. The Build Back Better Act uses the tax code to drive clean energy and energy efficiency growth and leverage private dollars. The direct pay provisions in the tax policies provide flexibility and efficiency to maximize their impact. These are policy design recommendations BCSE has supported. Learn how you can support the BCSE advocacy later on our fall newsletter.

In early November, BCSE witnessed the United States’ return as a clean energy and climate leader in international negotiations at the 26th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP 26), in Glasgow, Scotland. Large Congressional delegations and members of President Biden’s Cabinet were on stages and in the halls throughout COP 26, advocating for fair and transparent rules to implement the Paris Agreement and for greater international ambition to accelerate climate action. Read on to learn more about BCSE's engagement in our fall newsletter.

The BCSE looks forward to continuing to work with Congress and the Biden Administration to shape and implement the programs and policies that will support the U.S. energy transition in an inclusive, affordable and efficient manner, and will strengthen the growth and resilience of the American economy. To receive our newsletters directly, subscribe here.

Sincerely,

Lisa Jacobson
President, Business Council for Sustainable Energy

Read BCSE's fall 2021 newsletter for updates on the Council's work, covering:
  • Join the BCSE to call for action from Congress
  • Recap: BCSE at COP 26 in Glasgow, Scotland
  • Find out more about the progress of clean energy in all 50 states
  • Updates from Clean Energy Business Network and BCSE's policy committees
  • BCSE & member news

The President’s View: Infrastructure Summer Delivers for Clean Energy

There is an annual call in Washington D.C. each summer for a national “infrastructure week." As years have gone by without significant action, the phrase has started carrying a sarcastic double-meaning. That changed this summer, when we saw real, bipartisan progress towards fundamental infrastructure policy that will help America rebound from the pandemic and make significant progress on the U.S. clean energy transition in the 2020s.

As we all wait for the House of Representatives to take up the Senate’s Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, BCSE is reflecting on the enormous amount of research, work, coordination and compromise that brought us to this stage. But the law-making process still isn’t complete, and we are calling on Congress and the President to get this important legislation over the finish line.

The infrastructure package includes significant policy and funding for America’s clean energy transformation. It makes these investments because clean energy and energy efficient infrastructure will create jobs and protect America’s economic competitiveness in the face of evolving international markets and the increasing threats of climate change.

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act is an important first step towards the energy system of the future, but we cannot stop there. The climate science is unequivocal: emissions must decline as soon as possible to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.

The IPCC Physical Science Basis report, published in early August, reinforced that extreme weather, and associated health and economic impacts, is intensifying due to climate change. The cost of recovery and adaptation associated with these climate disasters is already high, and will increase.

We have no time to waste in deploying available technologies to manage a reliable, safe, affordable and sustainable energy system. The BCSE has collected member stories to demonstrate the breadth of available solutions at bcse.org/infrastructure. We ask for everyone’s help in spreading the understanding that clean energy and efficiency solutions are ready, they create jobs, and they secure our future. The true challenges to a clean energy future are not technical or economic - they are political and regulatory.

It is a privilege to be working on solutions to these challenges with a diverse and dedicated (and growing!) coalition of clean energy companies. Consistent education and advocacy for climate solutions has led to the political moment that we find ourselves in today: where bipartisan legislation includes tens of billions of dollars for clean energy development and deployment, where a new conservative caucus is focused on climate change, and where there is potential for even more transformative policy.

To our friends across America and around the world, please let your representatives and networks know that clean energy and energy efficient infrastructure drive a competitive economy. The time for bold policy that transforms our energy and transportation sectors, especially, is now.

Sincerely,

Lisa Jacobson
President, Business Council for Sustainable Energy

Read BCSE's summer 2021 newsletter for updates on the Council's work, covering:
  • Environmental Justice
  • Federal Policy
  • International Climate Action (and more!)

How to Build the Workforce We Need

Building and maintaining a well-trained and diverse workforce will be necessary to the progress of clean energy in America. I recently joined an international discussion hosted by the World Bank, Connecting Sustainable Energy Businesses with Education: Getting the Workforce You Need, that looked at workforce development issues with a global perspective and included speakers from Australia, France, India, Japan, Morocco, Nigeria and Zambia.

My remarks were based on survey and research work we did with our members in the summer of 2020 led by Camille Moore, BCSE’s 2020 Jan Schori Fellow, industry outreach and advocacy conducted during the pandemic (see Powering Forward Episode 4), 2020 U.S. Energy & Employment Report and monthly Clean Energy Employment Impact analyses by BW Research, ACORE, E2 and E4theFuture.

While our coalition’s work to understand how our sectors can expand and diversify pathways towards a career in clean energy is ongoing, I want to highlight three observations to add to the broader discussion.

1. U.S. clean energy sectors were hit hard by COVID-19 pandemic but offer great growth potential as we make investments in economic recovery and the creation of a low-carbon, climate-resilient future.

Public policy aimed at economic recovery and climate change must center the health and economic well-being of the workforce. Partnering with the private sector to shape and implement these policies will ensure their effectiveness.

Prior to the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020, the U.S. clean energy sectors employed well over 3 million Americans, and by the year’s end, more than 400,000 jobs were lost or furloughed.  Many of these jobs, the majority in energy efficiency sectors, have not yet been restored.

We are also seeing an increase in the number of states and corporations that are adopting ambitious climate change targets for mid-century. We will need an expanded and well-trained workforce to get there.

To meet the objectives of the restoration of jobs lost last year and the training of tomorrow’s workforce, both short-term and longer-term policies are needed.  An example of the former is the continuation of the paycheck protection program (PPP) so as to enable small- and medium-sized clean energy businesses to retain its workforce and recruit new workers. A longer-term investment is expansion of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) opportunities for grades K-12.

2. Clean energy can offer good careers, which should be made accessible to broader segments of the workforce with dedicated attention to outreach, education and training.

Clean energy careers are more than technical and engineering positions. To build a sustainable energy future, America needs skilled construction, installation, finance and professional services professionals.

Outreach and consistent engagement with currently under-represented communities will help build a workforce that is more reflective of the diversity of U.S. society. This is a role that the federal government can help with, through apprenticeship programs, partnerships with minority-serving institutions and historically Black colleges and universities and creation of senior-level workforce-development focused positions, such as one such position recently created at the office of the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy.

3. Workforce development and diversity and inclusion policies are distinct issues, with distinct objectives. Both are required to get the workforce we need.

In our survey of our members – we learned that 53% of respondents have a workforce development policy in place and 71% of respondents have a diversity and inclusion policy in place.  We also learned about some of the barriers facing companies as they try to address one or both issues – including limited staff and financial resources, lack of qualified and diverse labor pools due to geographic limitations and other factors, and the challenge of staff performing day-to-day job responsibilities and also training for a future position.

There is clearly more work that needs to be done, especially as the federal government and Congress move towards programs and legislation that tackle economic recovery, infrastructure and climate change.

About the Author: Lisa Jacobson is the President of the Business Council for Sustainable Energy

ICYMI: Watch the recording of the February 25 World Bank webinar.

Master Multi-Taskers: Clean Energy Solutions for Today’s Complex Challenges

The BCSE, in partnership with the Energy Efficiency Global Alliance, is co-hosting a virtual event during Climate Week NYC, “A Solution Set for Complex Challenges: Clean Energy and Climate, COVID-19 and Economic Recovery” on September 23.

The convergence of the crises experienced in 2020 ̶ the depths of the COVID-19 pandemic, an emerging economic recession, the direct impacts of climate change and a rising racial and social justice movement ̶ is revealing both shortfalls and opportunities in our society and economy.

This event will bring together experts and executives for a practical discussion on how to optimize the response to these challenges by utilizing energy efficiency and clean energy technologies.

Deploying this “solution set” at the scale required by the climate science is no easy task, but I am optimistic and emboldened by what I know is possible with existing technologies. We have already seen how clean energy has helped our critical infrastructure continue to operate throughout the pandemic and provide essential services. But we have also experienced significant job losses in the clean energy sector due to stay-at-home orders and the slowdown in our economy.

It is from the depths of the crises of 2020 that we can make an exponential impact on tomorrow’s climate, social and economic trajectories. As governments and companies alike seek to simultaneously set an immediate path to recovery and to ratchet up climate ambition, the opportunities for clean energy to “multi-task” the solutions are many:

  • We can restore and create new jobs, and expand the sector’s reach to underrepresented communities and build a more equitable economy.
  • We can invest in the resilience of communities – in our schools, hospitals, office buildings, electricity grid and other critical infrastructure, and invest in the protection of our essential service providers – from workers in grocery stores to public transportation to first responders.
  • We can advance the progress of clean energy to continue to reduce emissions in the power and transport sector and begin to make significant gains in the buildings and industrial sectors.
  • We can accelerate partnerships with local, state and federal policymakers to implement policies and create financial tools that will help us emerge from these crises better off from where we started.

 

Multiple and simultaneous crises require innovative thinking, a can-do attitude, financial capital and the political will to respond at the scale that is necessary. Clean energy is at the ready. It is time to deploy.

Climate Week NYC 2020 is an all virtual event and will be held September 21 – 27.

Clean Energy Industry Faces COVID-19 Challenges, Looks to Support Economic Recovery

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee convened a June 16 hearing to examine the impacts of COVID-19 on the energy industry.  I was privileged to be invited to testify on behalf of the Business Council for Sustainable Energy and its subsidiary, the Clean Energy Business Network and speak to the COVID-19 impacts felt by clean energy industries.

The pandemic is first and foremost a public health crisis of an unprecedented scale in the United States and around the world, with over 120,000 lives lost in the United States to date.

The efforts to try to control the spread of the coronavirus, through stay-at-home orders and other measures, that have dramatically altered business and social activity in many parts of the country since early March. During this time, the energy sector has performed essential services to society by providing reliable power and energy resources to communities.

Though limiting the spread of the pandemic and ensuring that people can meet their basic needs remain the focus for policymakers and communities, planning for economic recovery will allow businesses to make sustainable plans and give millions of families the promise of financial stability when it is safe to return to work in impacted industries.

Here are the three main points I made to Congress on the impacts of COVID-19 on clean energy industries, and how legislators can support a path to recovery:

  • The U.S. clean energy workforce was expanding pre-COVID-19, and now the sector is facing economic challenges and dramatic job losses.
  • The federal government can take actions to provide near-term relief to clean energy industries and workers in this time of crisis.
  • And, clean energy industries can be drivers of the economic recovery. The federal government can ensure a swift return to pre-pandemic growth with policy support that could reach nearly every community in America.

The Challenge: Job Losses in Energy Efficiency, Renewable Energy

The U.S. energy sector supported 6.8 million jobs at the start of 2020, according to the independent U.S. Energy and Employment Report released in March 2020.[1] The energy sector saw 1.8% job growth in 2019.

Clean energy sectors, specifically, supported over 3.4 million jobs at the end of 2019, with around 70% of those jobs in small businesses. Solar photovoltaic installers and wind turbine technicians represented the fastest-growing job sectors in America.[2]

Unfortunately, COVID-19 and the associated activity restrictions have erased the last five years of job growth for the clean energy sector. Based on data from March and April 2020, the energy sector lost 1.3 million jobs since early March, a 13% percent decline.[3]

Updated research released June 15 (which includes data from May) by E2 (Environmental Entrepreneurs), BW Research Partnership, E4TheFuture, and the American Council on Renewable Energy covering the energy efficiency, renewable energy, clean vehicles, grid and storage, and clean fuels sectors shows 620,590 jobs lost, with energy efficiency and renewable energy workers being hardest hit with more than 500,000 job losses (431,800 and 100,000 respectively). While the rate of job loss slowed in May compared to April and March for these clean energy sectors, over 27,000 jobs were shed last month.

Many of these losses are due to stay-at-home orders or other restrictions that stopped onsite energy efficiency and renewable energy installations.  Non-essential construction stopped, and many building and project sites were closed.

Utility clean energy programs across the country have ceased, impacting workers who provide demand-side management, renewable energy, and energy efficiency installations and services.

The clean energy project and investment pipeline has been significantly interrupted. Project construction and permitting has been delayed, financing has been slowed, and supply chains have been disrupted.

The Path Forward: Powering Forward with Clean Energy

A safe, resilient and reliable energy system is critical to managing the current health crisis and rebounding the economy when the time is right.

While clean energy industries have experienced economic hardship as a result of business conditions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, they have contributed to the resilience of our communities during this difficult time, and will be there to help lead a robust economic recovery.

The federal government can provide immediate relief to clean energy industries in the short-term to provide business continuity and can enact policy measures that catalyze investment and create jobs in clean energy industries to support economic renewal.

The 2020 U.S. Energy and Employment Report, released before the pandemic reached the U.S., focused on a different workforce challenge: difficulty hiring skilled workers to meet growing demand for clean energy deployment. The clean energy industry is poised, not only to recovery the jobs it had at the beginning of 2020, but to continue its trajectory to make up the majority of U.S. energy jobs.

See BCSE’s written testimony for additional details on the types of federal policy measures that would deliver near-term relief to clean energy industries and enable these industries to help the economy “build back better.”

About the Author: Lisa Jacobson is the President of Business Council for Sustainable Energy

[1] 2020 U.S. Energy & Employment Report

[2] U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

[3] Clean Energy Employment Initial Impacts from the COVID-19 Economic Crisis, April 2020

BCSE Spring 2020 Quarterly Connection: The President’s View

The President's View: BCSE’s Role During COVID-19

After eight weeks of remote work, BCSE’s role in the COVID-19 response and recovery is crystallizing.

The past month has been a period of uncertainty and information gathering. The BCSE’s immediate priorities were to understand the needs of our members and industries and to connect with policymakers on what they were looking to accomplish.

The pieces are coming together, with data on energy job impacts being released for March as well as sector specific impacts being released from a number of BCSE members. What is clear is that energy is critical infrastructure and provides power to support our lifeline sectors – health care, buildings, manufacturing and transportation. While job losses have been reported and, construction in some parts of the country has been delayed, our energy system has ensured that communities can focus on the health crisis at hand.

As we move through this unprecedented period, we are connecting our members several times per week with key Congressional staff to stay apprised of the action and requests from legislators.

We are heartened to see this work appreciated by BCSE members as well as policymakers. Our Federal Policy Committee meetings are drawing nearly double normal participation. Legislative staff from leadership offices continue to offer their insights to our members and request information on industry needs. Our COVID-19 Resources page includes summaries of our work and our members’ efforts, as well as public resources.

We are grateful to our members and partners for their tireless work in this time of crisis. All have shown leadership as participants in critical supply chains and essential workforces, going above and beyond to keep people safe in this time of crisis and forge a path beyond it.

In this newsletter we look back on easier times, as well as forward to the work ahead. To all of our friends and colleagues in the clean energy sectors, we hope that you are weathering this storm and we thank you for your work towards a sustainable future.

Sincerely,

Lisa Jacobson
President, Business Council for Sustainable Energy

Read the rest of the BCSE Quarterly Connection for Spring 2020 here.

Green-e Renewable Fuels Standard for Canada and the United States

The Center for Resource Solutions put out a call for comments on their Green-e certification program for renewable gas products and associated environmental attributes. The Council welcomed the opportunity to offer the coalition’s perspectives on the important and growing role that renewable natural gas (RNG) and hydrogen can play in achieving sustainability and greenhouse gas emission reduction goals.

BCSE’s membership of energy efficiency, natural gas and renewable energy sees the value of a Green-e standard and certification process to provide transparent accounting and clear environmental disclosure. Adoption of a Green-e Standard for Renewable Fuels is a important step to valuing the environmental attributes of RNG and other renewable fuels.

The BCSE’s response includes data from the 2020 Sustainable Energy in America Factbook, produced in partnership with BloombergNEF. The 2020 Factbook is the first edition to include stand-along sections on RNG and hydrogen, demonstrating the increased commercial interest in these resources by customers and investors.

The Factbook also tracks falling technology costs. The cost of a European-made hydrogen electrolyzer in 2019 was half of what it was in 2014, on a per kilowatt basis. This encouraging cost curve, combined with state and local clean energy mandates, signal a bright future for clean fuels.

The Council’s full comments area available here

Minnesota’s Progress on Clean Energy = A Roadmap for Economic Growth

Americans in every state are wondering “What the economy will look like after the COVID-19 pandemic has subsided?” As our policymakers concentrate on relief measures and companies look for ways to weather the storm and contribute to solutions, the BCSE coalition has been thinking about how to put America back on the path of prosperity, and to “build back better” critical infrastructure such as the electricity system.

In that light, our perspective on the 2020 Minnesota Energy Factsheet changed as we put it together over the past month. 

The Minnesota Factsheet looks back at changes in 2019, as well as a longer view over the Clean Energy Decade (2010 – 2019). The Factsheet digs into how the Minnesota energy economy evolved in the transition to clean energy and the strong economic benefits and results for customers and businesses.

As the country experiences a period of significant change and we come together to support communities and the economy, we look even more to Minnesota’s transition as a roadmap for success in other states.

More than ever, we are thinking about jobs:

  • In 2018, 61,000+ Minnesotans worked in clean energy
  • Clean energy jobs grew 2.5x faster than overall job growth
  • 72.3 percent of Minnesota’s clean energy businesses employed fewer than 20 individuals.

 

Clean energy jobs don’t just deliver paychecks – they deliver results for all Minnesotans. Some highlights of their achievements from the Minnesota Energy Factsheet:

  • Renewables account for 84 percent of all new electricity generation capacity added since 2010, totaling 3.4 gigawatts.
  • Emissions have fallen 37 percent since 2005 and 27 percent since 2010. from 2018 to 2019 alone, emissions fell nearly 14 percent.
  • Over the last decade, Minnesota has by 22 percent as power consumption is up 2 percent while state GDP is up 24 percent.
  • Between 2018 and 2019, unsubsidized utility-scale wind and subsidized utility-scale solar both experienced a 2.5 percent decline in price.
  • From 2015 to 2019 annual sales of battery electric vehicles are up 8x to 2,600 units. annual plug-in hybrid electric vehicle sales rose nearly 3x to 1,200 units.
  • The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy ranked Minnesota 8th out of all 50 states for its overall energy efficiency programs (the highest ranking in the Midwest).

 

The Factsheet is produced by BloombergNEF for the Business Council for Sustainable Energy and released in partnership with Clean Energy Economy Minnesota, as a resource to policymakers, journalists, industry, and the interested public. It is a companion to the national 2020 Sustainable Energy in America Factbook.

The Factsheet is available to download for free here: bit.ly/2020MNFactsheet

This blog post is taken from Lisa Jacobson's LinkedIn article.

ERA, USGBC Leading Industry Charge for Retrofits for Resilience

A Summer Reading List Recommendation:

As we settle into the lazy days of summer and are on the cusp of hurricane season, I offer an insightful addition to your summer reading list - Retrofit Magazine’s Special Report: How to Make Buildings More Resilient (July/August 2019 issue). 

In the Special Report, the call is made for the architectural and buildings industries to “lead the charge” in making our buildings and infrastructure more resilient in the face of growing physical and cyber threats. I am proud that two BCSE members, EPDM Roofing Association (ERA) and the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) are doing just that and contributed to this report (see below for links to their articles).  The report focuses on how organizations like these are offering insight and assistance to building practitioners and to the broader policy-making community on how to make homes and buildings safer and more resilient. 

The BCSE represents many technology solutions and industries, including energy efficiency, the building envelope, on-site generation and more, that can immediately strengthen the resilience of our building stock. As the report highlights, relatively modest investments in roof and heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems can capture the “resilience dividend” for communities today.

There are great opportunities for us  ̶  businesses, governments and communities  ̶  to work together to capture these multiple benefits that investing in resilience delivers, from the ability to remain operational during extreme weather to significant cost savings to families, businesses and communities.

Read more in these articles from the July/August Special Report: ERA: Strengthening the Roofing Industry by Louisa Hart and USGBC: Green Buildings as Climate Solution by Sarah Stanley.

About the Author: Lisa Jacobson is the President of the Business Council for Sustainable Energy (BCSE).

Happy Birthday to the Clean Energy Business Network!

May 2, 2018 | Author: Lisa Jacobson, President, Business Council for Sustainable Energy

We are pleased to celebrate the one-year anniversary of bringing the Clean Energy Business Network (CEBN) on board as an independent initiative of the Business Council for Sustainable Energy.

This broadening of our clean energy “family” is already exceeding expectations – adding a fantastic staff to the team, strengthening the Council’s federal policy advocacy by including the perspectives of small and medium-sized businesses in our outreach and building a bigger clean energy marketplace around the country.

Working together the BCSE and CEBN bring complementary strengths to the table; and by joining forces, a more unified voice on behalf of clean energy in key policy areas such as investment in federal research, development and deployment, tax policy and electric grid resilience and modernization.

Get Involved

Do you know 5 clean energy business leaders? Companies that you work with in your supply chain, project implementation, or are engaged in your community or local university? Please forward them this article — and urge them to join the Clean Energy Business Network’s growing community!

A Year in Review

In its first year as part of the BCSE, the CEBN has made tremendous progress, and some of these accomplishments are listed below.

  • 150 new members added, bringing total membership to 3,150
  • Establishment of CEBN Board of Directors
  • 2 conferences/fly-ins convened in Washington, DC
  • 200 business leaders engaged in communications and meetings with policymakers, with emphasis on federal appropriations, tax policy, and grid infrastructure
  • Creation of Faces Behind the Facts, profiling business leaders behind these industry trends, to complement the Sustainable Energy in America Factbook
  • Convening Power Circuit conferences around the country – inaugural event held in The Woodlands, Texas on May 1, with subsequent events in coming months in Ohio and Pennsylvania

About the CEBN

The Clean Energy Business Network is growing the clean energy economy—one small business at a time. The CEBN serves as a collective voice before policymakers empowering small- and medium-size clean energy businesses across multiple technologies and geographies, and help these companies navigate funding, networking, and business development opportunities. For more information, visit: www.cebn.org.