Today, the Business Council for Sustainable Energy (BCSE) released its Recommendations for Energy and Climate Change Policy, which will inform our advocacy and the consideration of policy and legislative proposals in the next Congress and administration as well as at the international, state and local levels.
In the midst of the transition to cleaner fuels and technologies, and in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic and the intensifying challenges presented by climate change, there is a need for “energy policy” to take on its broadest definition. Holistic energy legislation must include infrastructure, finance, digitalization, workforce development, and sound science.
Crafting policy to address these overlapping challenges, while delivering on the energy values of American consumers, is a tall order. However, the intersections offer opportunities for stacked benefits. BCSE’s Recommendations for Energy and Climate Change Policy provides a foundation based on 30 years of business experience across clean energy industries to guide policymakers’ approaches to these issues.
BCSE members have worked to build the American clean energy economy over a range of policy environments and have distilled the approaches that create the best outcomes for the customer and the climate. The BCSE’s policy recommendations will allow clean energy to lead the economic recovery and accelerate action on climate change
The Council offers a set of principles and recommendations to ensure that energy and climate change policy is aligned with the needs of clean energy industries and consumers so that investments are effective, and their benefits are lasting. The Council’s principles recognize that Americans are looking for reliable, affordable, resilient and clean energy – and that the energy efficiency, natural gas and renewable energy industries can deliver on these values.
About the Authors: Lisa Jacobson is President of the Business Council for Sustainable Energy and Emily Duncan is the Chairman, BCSE Board of Directors and Director, Federal Government Relations for National Grid US.
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.
At Capital Power, delivering Responsible Energy for Tomorrow means advancing the participation of women in energy and closing the gender gap. Our Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) Committee is proud to announce that Capital Power has joined the Equal by 30 campaign to demonstrate our commitment to gender equity as an integral part of the global transition to clean energy.
“Capital Power is committed to supporting the careers and advancement of women. We understand the value diverse perspectives and skillsets bring at every level of our organization and are proud of the many exceptional women leading our company as we work to build a sustainable, low-carbon energy future.” – Brian Vaasjo, President & CEO
Equal by 30 is part of the global Clean Energy, Education and Empowerment Initiative (C3E), co-sponsored by the International Energy Agency (IEA), and championed in Canada by the Federal Government through Natural Resources Canada. The initiative believes gender equality is essential to successful clean energy transformation and asks the public and private sectors to endorse principles, set commitments, and take concrete actions to support women in energy and help close the gender gap. More than simply a campaign – Equal by 30 is a commitment to work towards equal pay, equal leadership, and equal opportunities for women in the clean energy sector by 2030.
“Successfully transforming our energy system to support a low-carbon, sustainable future will not happen without women at the table. We need an ‘all-of-the-above’ approach to advance the global transition to clean energy – that means bringing together diverse minds and pursuing solutions in all forms to tackle the climate crisis and build a sustainable future for generations to come.” – Kate Chisholm, SVP, Planning, Stakeholder Relations and Chief Sustainability Officer
Through our participation in Equal by 30, we are endorsing and committing to the following high-level principles:
We aim to lead by example, integrating equality principles into our organization and policies.
We will step up our efforts to promote gender diversity activities in areas of recruitment and career advancement.
We pledge to highlight and support women and close the gender gap in our business.
We will provide leadership, and share our experiences and lessons learned on gender diversity programming and initiatives.
We recognize the importance of reporting on progress and will support efforts to improve the collection of gender disaggregated data in order to report on our progress in a transparent and open manner.
Through our D&I and broader company-wide initiatives, we’re committed to improving gender representation throughout our organization. Women currently make up 44% of our Board of Directors, and our recent organizational realignment moves us further towards gender equality with women now representing 43% of our Executive team.
“I’m proud to work for an organization that understands the value women bring to the leadership table. As Chief Financial Officer, I’m part of an Executive Team that engages equally, supports diversity and inclusion, and empowers a leadership mentality in all our female employees to grow their careers.” – Sandra Haskins, SVP, Finance and Chief Financial Officer
As we operate in a largely male-dominated industry, particularly in certain trades and professions, we recognize that additional progress will take time. The Equal by 30 principles will help inform our assessment and design of programs to help us achieve our diversity goals across all levels and aspects of the company, and the reporting of our progress.
The word resilience conjures up many different meanings. In physics, resilience is the ability of an elastic material to absorb and release energy, returning to its original form. In psychology, resilience is a mindset; adaptation in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or stress. In the energy world, we certainly abide by these definitions, but we must go further and redefine what it means to be resilient.
Late last year, FTI Consulting conducted a quantitative survey, which told us 84% of business leaders across all G20 countries anticipated a crisis in 2020. Those concerns were largely surrounding the “normal” risks such as cyber/data security, competition/business disruption, trade issues, political and regulatory uncertainty, fraud/corruption, and litigation. It is safe to say, no one was concerned about the impact a global pandemic might have in 2020. While many of the identified risks are part and parcel of what we’re experiencing today, the COVID-19 pandemic has already taught us many lessons in the area of resilience.
We know our energy system is critical to our daily lives, and even more so now – powering our homes, which have become our default schools and workplaces, our communications and logistics networks we rely so heavily upon, and our first responders working on the front lines of this crisis. So far, the energy system has worked well because it is built to be resilient. Engineers and system planners pay meticulous attention to the power grid and pipeline system. Energy providers, together with federal and state governmental partners, rehearse disaster planning scenarios and adapt protocol to ensure our mission-essential workforce can safely do their job. The system’s resilience has been tried and tested, but it must be prepared to withstand more.
Resilience now includes planning for a natural disaster on top of a pandemic response. Hurricanes, earthquakes, wildfires, floods, and winter storms not only impact the energy system, but affect already stressed medical and transportation systems. Dedicated and improved communications access for business continuity, safety, and automated service offerings is a necessary consideration. Workforce constraints due to illness, social distancing, and shelter-in-place orders will be exacerbated. Customer needs are a greater concern than ever before, as many are now unemployed and unable to pay bills. Yet, the power needs to remain on, and natural gas must continue to flow.
The COVID-19 crisis has been instructive in detailing individual and system weaknesses. All energy providers now face risks of supply chain disruption, reduced investment due to uncertain demand, and a lack of incentives and long-term policies to support their business models. This brings challenges as well as opportunities for accelerated change, as the energy industry that emerges from the crisis will be much different.
We must consider how to strengthen, adapt, and innovate the energy sector further than we’ve previously imagined. Together, policymakers and businesses must work towards recovery and build a more resilient sector to support society in the post-crisis period.
As Congress considers energy, infrastructure, and recovery legislation, it should think carefully about how we redefine resilience. As we have seen in a short few months, returning to the status quo or merely adapting for a short time is no longer acceptable. Balancing this mandate on top of competing concerns, such as national security, economic prosperity, and a healthy environment is not an easy task. But there are some opportunities that will take these considerations into account. Congress should enlist the expertise of the energy industry on the following:
What existing programs should be fully funded or expanded? One example is the relatively new Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) program housed in the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Here, FEMA’s focus should be on utilizing tools to improve resilience, rather than simply picking up the tab for unpreparedness. The program should prioritize clean energy projects that improve resilience, efficiency, and better prepare for predictable and unforeseen climate impacts. In addition, the program should look at projects that leverage private-sector finance through performance-based contracts – a much more efficient use of government funds.
How do we build and maintain a skilled workforce? The impact of COVID-19 has underscored the need to increase the number and the breadth of skilled labor in the energy industry. While the clean energy industry was poised to make up the majority of domestic energy jobs before the pandemic, assistance will be needed to ensure that is the case. While recovery funds help, the government should identify STEM education programs to educate kids early, community college programs to develop technical skills, and apprenticeship programs that feed into good paying jobs for people.
What is really needed to create resilient energy systems to prepare communities across the country for extreme weather events and disasters? Federal and state government leadership is needed to promote and adopt policies that foster holistic energy infrastructure planning – not wasteful redundancy. Understanding a one size fits all approach will not work equally in urban and rural areas, as unique geography, infrastructure, climate, costs, and fuel sources need to be taken into consideration.
How can we spur innovation? One of the reasons our energy system functions so well is because we thoroughly test elements before integrating them into the system. This is especially true of defense-critical operations. To do this, we need additional R&D funding to develop next generation systems, utilizing our national labs, military bases, and private companies. Public private partnerships such as the BlockEnergy project with Kirtland Air Force Base, Sandia National Labs, and Emera Technologies are a productive use of government funds.
In FTI’s Resilience Barometer, the United States met the average, with a resilience score of 43/100. The United States is capable of much more than “average”. This score suggests there is much more we can do to effectively build resilience and manage future risks. Using the lessons learned in 2020, we can better prepare for the next decade and perhaps the next century.
About the Author: Shannon Maher Bañaga is a Managing Director in the Strategic Communications, Energy & Natural Resources practice at FTI Consulting providing senior-level counsel and assistance in developing multi-faceted communications strategies to shape and inform the political and policy environment for clients in the energy and environmental space. Please visit FTI Consulting’s COVID-19 microsite for related updates and insights.
The views expressed herein are those of the author(s) and not necessarily the views of FTI Consulting, Inc., its management, its subsidiaries, its affiliates, or its other professionals.