Across the country, politicians at every level of government are shifting into high gear in anticipation of the high-stakes midterm elections in November.
As political prognosticators continue to hypothesize on potential outcomes, it’s easy to lose sight of key issues and commonsense solutions that are currently being legislated on Capitol Hill and in state legislatures throughout America. Beyond discussing their record and experiences, candidates who will be on the ballot this November have a responsibility to outline their vision for where they want to take their states and the nation as a whole.
National Clean Energy Week offers an unparalleled opportunity for state and federal officials to discuss their policy records and how clean energy is yielding tangible results when it comes to job creation, technical innovation and lower emissions by energy producers.
In 2017, the inaugural celebration of NCEW included a broad coalition representing various domestic energy sectors. From renewable energy, carbon capture and energy efficiency advocates to proponents of energy storage, natural gas and nuclear energy, NCEW served as a high-profile convener of industry priorities. Adding more voices to the discussion complements the ongoing transformation of the U.S. energy sector, which has continued to accelerate throughout 2017 and into 2018, in spite of new headwinds including policy uncertainties.
As we embark upon our second-annual NCEW celebration, which will take place Sept. 24-28, the current energy landscape is cause for optimism. Perhaps the most noteworthy accomplishment over the last year according to the Business Council for Sustainable Energy’s 2018 Factbook was that domestic energy productivity and gross domestic product growth both increased, demonstrating that the U.S. economy can grow at a reasonable rate, even as total energy consumption actually declines.
This was buttressed by an uptick in renewable energy generation from 15 percent to 18 percent of America’s total electricity, thanks to continued deployment. All told, the industry has climbed to $200 billion in size while supporting more than 3 million jobs across the United States.
That’s great news for clean energy industries, our nation’s energy security and the environment, but it is also benefiting consumers on an unprecedented scale. In 2017, consumers devoted a smaller share of their spending toward electricity than at any time ever recorded, while the total share of household expenses dedicated to overall energy costs remained near an all-time low. Power and natural gas prices stayed reasonable across the country, and contract prices for wind and solar continued to drop steadily as the marketplace for these resources matures.
There is every reason to believe these trends will continue throughout 2018 and beyond as utilities and independent developers continue to invest in infrastructure to improve grid operations and support the growth of clean energy. Yet, there remains much work to do.
We are hopeful that this year’s dialogue will continue to raise awareness about the need for more long-term policy support for smaller clean energy sectors, including biomass, biogas, waste-to-energy, geothermal, hydropower and energy storage. The midterm elections will occur at a time of unprecedented public support for clean energy across ideological boundaries.
According to a recent poll sponsored by the Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions Forum, 75 percent of voters now favor the federal government playing a role in the advancement of newer, cleaner and more reliable energy sources. The midterm election season is a suitable time for members of Congress and state leaders to take a stand in support of the economic and job creation potential of clean, affordable means of energy production.
In addition to events in Washington, D.C., a number of state and local governments, trade associations, business councils, advocacy groups and businesses will once again convene this fall inside their own communities. We expect hundreds of organizations to participate this year and bring positive messaging and events across the country for policymakers, industry leaders and concerned citizens to share and learn about the latest in clean energy.
Together, we will harness the power of free market and government collaboration to move America forward. That is a midterm election message that America’s governors and leaders in Congress can get behind.
Charles Hernick is director of policy and advocacy at Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions Forum; Lisa Jacobson is president of the Business Council for Sustainable Energy; and Dylan Reed is head of congressional affairs at Advanced Energy Economy.