The Environmental Journal of Southern Appalachia

SACE sees many silver linings in Senate climate bill; House passage expected

Written by

UN Climate ChangeA rainbow pierces gray skies during the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow. United Nations

Climate activists stress positives of Senate climate bill despite its shortcomings 

Amy Rawe is communications director for Knoxville-based Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.

KNOXVILLE — The U.S. Senate passed the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), an estimated $430 billion bill, of which approximately $370 billion will be allocated to investments in clean energy and to address climate change.

It’s the single largest climate investment in U.S. history, and if it passes the House, will put the country on a path to be able to achieve roughly 40 percent emissions reduction from 2005 levels by 2030, reestablishing our influence in meeting the Paris Agreement goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. 

If passed, the Inflation Reduction Act will:

  • Give opportunities to hundreds of thousands of Americans to work in well-paying jobs manufacturing, installing, and maintaining clean energy, energy efficiency, and clean transportation
  • Lower Americans’ cost of electricity by spurring the development of hundreds of gigawatts of low-cost clean energy, including wind, solar, and battery energy storage.
  • Protect drivers from expensive and volatile fuel costs through financial incentives to switch to electric vehicles.
  • Reduce households’ bills through historic investments in rebates and tax credits for home energy efficiency and efficient electric appliances.
  • Promote environmental justice and direct resources and benefits to disadvantaged communities, which are often overlooked for investment and bear heavy costs of fossil fuel pollution.

The bill’s passage on a 50-50 vote, with the tie-breaking vote cast by Vice President, Kamala Harris, underscores the importance of ensuring clean-energy and climate-focused leaders are elected at all levels of government.

Dr. Stephen A. Smith, Executive Director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, said, “Change is coming. This bill is a historic commitment by the United States to regain a leadership position not only in addressing climate disruption but also in leading the clean energy technology revolution that is being unleashed. While no single entity can take credit for the rollercoaster ride that led to the Senate passing this significant legislation, much credit must be given to the voters in Georgia. By electing not one, but two climate-focused Senate leaders in a run-off election in early 2021, these two Southern senators were absolutely necessary for creating this moment in history and shepherding the bill through the political tightrope in the Senate. We look forward to swift passage by the House of Representatives and the President’s signature.” 

Forty-one percent of recent high inflation is directly attributed to fossil fuel dependence and volatile prices, thus investments in electrification and clean energy to help wean us off of volatile fossil fuels can help lower costs. The IRA bill will enable households and businesses to receive rebates, tax credits, loans, and other financial incentives for energy efficiency improvements, installing solar or batteries, switching to electric vehicles, and electric appliances. A study by the Rhodium Group estimates that the bill’s provisions and other factors will save households an average of $1,025 per year by 2030.

Specifically, energy efficient technology like heat pumps will cost less to consumers, which will help reduce energy consumption in Southeastern states that have a high heating and air conditioning load in the summer and winter.  

The bill includes targeted investments for low-income communities, rural areas, and disadvantaged communities. For example, the legislation sets out $1 billion in grants to improve energy efficiency in affordable housing, $3 billion for reducing pollution at ports, $3 billion in environmental and climate justice block grants, more than $1 billion in grants for farmers and rural small businesses to invest in clean energy and energy efficiency, $9.7 billion in financial incentives for rural electric cooperatives to invest in clean energy and energy efficiency, and billions of dollars of seed money to leverage private capital to invest in low-income and disadvantaged communities. The bill’s tax credit provisions will increase workers’ pay and additionally provide bonus tax credits to solar and wind companies that invest in low-income communities. 

The bill also expands access to clean energy incentives to non-tax entities such as nonprofit organizations, tribal communities, and local and state governments, which will lower the cost of renewable energy for cooperatives, municipal utilities, and the federally-owned Tennessee Valley Authority. 

Many of the climate-specific provisions in the IRA will super-charge clean energy and clean transportation manufacturing, which could have a major impact in the Southeast which is already on a fast track to becoming a hub for electric vehicle manufacturing

The bill is, of course, not perfect. It doesn’t go as far as a federal clean energy policy should to eliminate carbon emissions at the speed scientists say is necessary to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. In fact, it includes concerning concessions to the fossil fuel industry that perpetuate extraction, ecosystem destruction, and toxic pollution by supporting our costly and risky dependency on oil, gas, and nuclear energy that could manifest into money pits at the expense of other climate solutions. But the climate pollution reductions from investments in clean energy are estimated to outweigh the emissions from oil and gas provisions 24-to-1. 

Addressing the magnitude of the bill, Maggie Shober, Research Director at the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, emphasized that “The Inflation Reduction Act is by far the most consequential legislation for climate action that has ever passed. I think it will take some time to be able to process the scale and positive effects this will have on our collective future. But the fight is not over, we’ll need to keep up momentum across the country and here in the Southeast. Paired with more federal, state, and local actions, we will be more equipped to face the most existential threat of our time: climate change.” 

The House is currently in recess, but a vote is likely to take place on Aug. 12, and the Inflation Reduction Act is expected to pass. Barring amendments, if it is passed, the bill will then head to President Biden’s desk to be signed into law.

Rate this item
(1 Vote)
Published in News, Air, 13 Climate Action

Related items

  • DOE energy justice official: New power paradigms must protect the poor
    in News

    reames1The inordinate burden of energy costs is shown in this slide presented by Tony Reames during a discussion of energy injustice at the University of Tennessee Howard Baker Center.  U.S. Department of Energy

    Department of Energy official pushes goals for energy equity in midst of power turmoil

    KNOXVILLE — Energy injustice seems abstract until you run extension cords to your neighbor’s house and store their food in your fridge because their power got cut off.

    What else are you supposed to do? Maybe start raising hell about the utility inequities faced by poor people that are clearer every day in an energy marketplace scarred by war and inflation and manipulated by global petroleum cartels?

    “We’re at a critical moment in our society. Across the globe, we are hearing about energy insecurity, energy, affordability issues, a lack of resources,” said Tony Reames, Department of Energy deputy director of energy justice, a newly created position at DOE.

  • Enviros to TVA: Retire the fossil-fuel pacifier
    in News

    Cumberland FPTVA’s Cumberland Fossil Plant near Clarksville is the subject of a suit filed by environmental groups, including Appalachian Voices and Southern Environmental Law Center.  Tennessee Valley Authority

    SELC, others file suit in hopes of dissuading TVA from future fossil options

    This story was originally published by Tennessee Lookout.

    CLARKSVILLE — On behalf of the Tennessee Chapter of the Sierra Club and Appalachian Voices, the Southern Environmental Law Center asked TVA to prepare a supplemental environmental statement to address concerns with TVA’s draft environmental impact statement, which details the agency’s plans to retire the Cumberland Fossil Plant.

    The Cumberland Fossil Plant, about 22 miles southwest of Clarksville, is TVA’s largest coal-fired power station and was built between 1968 and 1973. TVA plans to retire each unit of the two-unit, coal-fired steam-generation plant separately: one unit no later than 2030, and the second unit no later than 2033. But the plant will need to be replaced, and TVA is currently considering three alternatives to fossil fuel, including natural gas and solar energy, according to its draft EIS.

    (Tennessee Valley Authority already plans to close down the Knoxville-area Bull Run fossil plant in Claxton next year).

  • SACE belays solar power on Global Climbing Day
    in Air

    MEMPHIS Area residents were invited to a film screening of “Keep the Lights On” and a panel discussion at the Memphis Rox climbing gym with community members, local advocates and policy experts. The event, which ran from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 20, coincided with Global Climbing Day, and professional rock climbers Nina Williams, Manoah Ainuu (who recently summited Everest), Olympic Silver Medalist Nathaniel Coleman, and Fred Campbell hosted and participated in community and climbing-oriented events prior to the film screening and conversation. 

    The film follows Memphis Rox staff member and leader Jarmond Johnson, recounting his experiences with intermittent energy access growing up in South Memphis, his growth into a gang activist and mentorship role at Rox, and, ultimately, working with professional rock climber and environmental activist Alex Honnold (best known for the academy award-winning film, Free Solo) to bring solar energy to the gym. Following the screening, Jarmond and a panel of experts discussed takeaways from the film, and how equitable access to solar energy could help all Memphians keep their lights on. 

    — Southern Alliance for Clean Energy

  • Activists urge TVA to take advantage of historic US climate bill for energy-efficiency improvements
    in News

    TVA 1 2048x1365A hopper car on a train filled with coal to be delivered to a TVA coal-fired plant. John Partipilo/Tennessee Lookout

    Climate bill designates TVA as a potential recipient of clean energy investments and loans

    This story was originally published by Tennessee Lookout.

    KNOXVILLE  Clean-energy advocates are urging the Tennessee Valley Authority to use funds provided through the Inflation Reduction Act to deliver environmentally friendly energy to Tennessee customers. 

    The massive bill Congress passed Friday includes $370 billion for clean energy investments and listed TVA as an entity that is eligible to take advantage of clean energy credits and loans to significantly reduce the cost of energy-efficient infrastructure. 

    On Aug. 12, the Clean Up TVA Coalition, including the Sierra Club, the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy and Appalachian Voices, urged TVA to take advantage of the legislation and make funds available to its affiliated local power companies, which can then offer energy-efficient options for customers.

  • Dems pass huge climate bill assailed by some as another fossil energy sop
    in News

    5 July 2022 US Significant Climate Events Map

    Record-setting bill will fund extensive efforts to address climate change, but the sausage-making deal is decried by some as a ‘suicide pact’

    This story was originally published by Tennessee Lookout.

    WASHINGTON — The U.S. Senate, along party lines, passed a sweeping energy, health care, climate and tax package Sunday afternoon, following an overnight marathon of votes that resulted in just a handful of notable changes to the legislation.

    The 755-page bill was passed after Vice President Kamala Harris broke a 50-50 tie in the evenly divided Senate. It now heads to the House, where Democratic leaders have announced they will take it up on Friday.

    At last, we have arrived,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said.  Democratic senators broke out into applause as Harris announced passage of the bill, expected to total more than $700 billion.

    Schumer, a New York Democrat, said he dedicated the measure to young Americans who have pushed and protested for the Senate to take action on climate change. 

  • SACE released its annual utility decarbonization tracking report, and it’s not pretty
    in News

    methane leaksBloomberg reports that methane leaks from the natural gas sector may be far worse than estimated by the EPA. While replacing coal-fired power plants with natural gas ones reduces air pollution it may not help at all with climate change because methane is 30 times more effective as a greenhouse gas than CO2.  Image source: Kayrros SAS

    Report: Many utilities are not reducing carbon emissions despite public assurances to the contrary

    KNOXVILLE — Global greenhouse gas emissions must peak by 2025 and experience rapid and deep reductions to avoid a potentially catastrophic future, according to a new analysis by air-quality and climate advocates. Emissions must reach net zero by the early 2050s to limit warming to 1.5 degrees (C) in order to avoid the worst impacts of the climate crisis.

    Many utilities and municipalities have acknowledged this dynamic, but the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy s fourth annual “Tracking Decarbonization in the Southeast" report highlights that current utility resource plans are not in line with this overarching target. Obstacles to getting utilities on track that are discussed in our report include: increasing reliance on fossil gas, underutilizing energy efficiency, and placing limitations on popular technologies such as rooftop solar. There’s still a lot of work to do before any Southeast utility is on track to decarbonize.

  • New SACE report documents shortfalls and headwinds against utility decarbonization
    in Air

    Southern Alliance for Clean Energy's fourth annual “Tracking Decarbonization in the Southeast: Generation and Carbon Emissions” report will be released Wednesday, June 22

    Amy Rawe is communications director for Knoxville-based Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.

    KNOXVILLE — The report examines power-sector generation and emissions throughout the Southeast, which is home to some of the biggest utility systems in the nation, including Duke Energy, Southern Company, NextEra Energy, and the Tennessee Valley Authority.

    Many of these Southeastern utilities have been in the national spotlight for their professed commitment to decarbonization, but there are often inconsistencies between stated goals and resource plans.

  • Southeast electric vehicle sales increased 49 percent last year. Overall U.S. auto sales increased only 3 percent.
    in News

    car driving toward sunlightIllustration courtesy of Southern Alliance for Clean Energy

    Annual SACE, Atlas Public Policy data indicates rapidly escalating and enduring demand for electric vehicles in Southern U.S.

    Stan Cross leads Knoxville-based Southern Alliance for Clean Energy's electric transportation policy and utility reform efforts across the Southeast.

    When will the electrification of America’s cars, trucks, and buses really take off?

    Imminently, if not already. Look to the Southeast, which is experiencing impressive EV market growth despite a lack of state-level EV-supportive policies, incentives and regulations.

    The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy and partner, Atlas Public Policy, updated key year-end indicator data from the annual “Transportation Electrification in the Southeast” report to capture regional and state-specific growth in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee.

    This is a critical time for the expanding EV market. The pandemic has exposed global supply chain weaknesses related to auto manufacturing and battery production that can only be solved by increasing domestic production of critical materials and components.

    The Russian invasion of Ukraine is once again exposing the entanglement of America’s commitment to global democracy and dependency on oil for transportation, and highlighting the national security benefits of rapidly transitioning to electric mobility powered by domestic electricity. 

  • Seal it up: Inefficiency increases energy costs across the board

    Editors note: SACE executive director Stephen Smith is on the board of Foundation for Global Sustainability. Hellbender Press operates under the FGS nonprofit umbrella.

    The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE) released its fourth annual “Energy Efficiency in the Southeast” report, which tracks recent policy developments and performance trends in electric utility efficiency from 2020.

    It continues to highlight that despite being a proven low-cost clean energy resource with enormous potential to reduce carbon emissions and customers’ energy burden, Southeastern utilities continue to underinvest in energy efficiency.

    As a result, households in many Southeastern states have some of the highest electricity usage and monthly energy bills in the nation. Some states and utilities are making progress, and it’s not too late for local policymakers to take advantage of untapped efficiency savings to help reach crucial decarbonization goals.

  • Is TVA providing the best prices for energy consumers? Congress wants to know.
    kingstonThe Tennessee Valley Authority's fossil plant at Kingston. TVA
     

    Southern Alliance for Clean Energy: TVA is not coming clean in Congressional inquiries

    KNOXVILLE — On Jan. 13, the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce sent a letter to the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) requesting information regarding business practices that appear inconsistent with TVA’s statutory requirement to provide low-cost power to residents of the Tennessee Valley.
    TVA’s response to the committee’s 16 questions dodges some of the committee members’ key concerns and provides misleading information on several issues, including: