Hundreds of thousands of Louisiana residents remained without power weeks after Hurricane Ida devastated the transmission system delivering most of the state’s electricity. As the storm progressed, the National Weather Service issued its first-ever flash flood warning for New York City while tornadoes touched down in suburban New Jersey and Cape Cod.
Congress has a once-in-a-generation opportunity to combat climate change, investing in our communities, and preparing ourselves for a future that will be shaped by more frequent and increasingly devastating natural disasters like these. It is critical that they embrace their chance to lead.
What should that leadership look like? We’ve seen it here at home in Massachusetts. When a friend and fellow U.S. Army veteran Dan Leary and I transitioned to the civilian workforce upon returning home in 2005, Massachusetts was already taking bold steps to establish itself as a clean energy leader. The Patrick Administration and the legislature saw clearly that investing in clean energy would be good for the environment, the economy, and the state. Those early investments allowed solar developers like Nexamp, the one Dan I founded in 2007, to flourish.
While investing in new technologies and business models that make the benefits of clean energy more accessible, we’ve grown our team to over 300 employees and counting. Across seven states, we’re providing 350 gigawatt-hours of clean energy — enough to power 50,000 homes while saving 250,000 metric tons of CO2 emissions annually.
Our success was made possible by public investment in those states and state lawmakers who recognized that our future would be shaped by climate change. That early foresight enabled the fight through investments in clean energy and other climate mitigation efforts. The lawmakers in these states weren’t just investing in infrastructure; they were investing in the jobs and industries needed to combat a changing planet.
The impacts of climate change are not relegated to any one area of our nation. Last week, ski resorts in Lake Tahoe converted snow-making machines into water cannons to support firefighters battling the Caldor Fire. With months still left in this year’s western wildfire season, nearly 2 million acres have already burned.
As the House Ways & Means Committee, and Congress writ large, debate how to move our country forward through a budget bill, clean energy must be at the forefront of those solutions. We cannot continue to rely on states alone to lead on climate change. We must decarbonize our economy now. But as the states’ experiments and Nexamp’s own mission have shown, we do not have to choose between climate action and economic prosperity.
Decarbonizing the electricity sector can create as many as 600,000 jobs every year over the next decade. To modernize and make our energy grid resilient, workers will have the opportunity to harden our systems against cyber attacks and build and maintain distributed generation solar plants and offshore wind farms.
We need investments from Congress, and we know what works: long-term clean energy tax incentives that will spur continued clean energy deployment, showcasing America’s leadership against the climate crisis. Deploying ten years of fully-funded clean energy tax incentives would slash emissions, helping to cut carbon dioxide by 76 percent (below 2005 levels) over their lifespan. These incentives have expired and been temporarily extended more than a dozen times since 1999; eliminating uncertainty by creating long-term stability in the clean energy development market is long overdue. If designed correctly with credit flexibility and direct pay, these tax incentives will also more than double clean energy capacity compared to just a 10-year extension of the current credit system. Those same tax credits must extend to manufacturing. We must shore up our domestic manufacturing capacity so the projects we build here are made with goods manufactured here.
We can build a future that is clean and accessible to everyone and prepare for the worst impacts of climate change while beginning to reverse centuries of carbon pollution—all without sacrificing national prosperity. We need Congress to act now on bold climate investments.