A Summer to Remember: From Auxin Solar to the Inflation Reduction Act

A summer of vacations, sunsets, and sweeping clean energy legislation!

Summer’s winding down. Kids are scrambling for their last days of freedom before heading back to the classroom. Many of us will reflect on a summer of vacations, family reunions, and memories to last a lifetime.

But for those in the clean energy industry, it’s a summer we’ll never forget for other reasons.

Summer Rollercoaster

Earlier this summer, the Biden administration quashed a contentious tariff battle cratering the US solar industry. The move ended a welcome close to the infamous Auxin Solar Tariff story. (If you’re not up to speed, here’s the full story.)

Even though it fizzled out, many of us in the industry witnessed the unfortunate impacts of the Auxin case. Uncertainty for investors, increased price volatility for developers and customers. Clean energy projects delayed, prices increased – not good things.

The case left me (and many) wondering: What if the US approached the clean energy industry with a different mindset? Shouldn’t Americans be thinking bigger?

Reframing

Instead of a story about scarcity and “us versus them”, shouldn’t we be celebrating a story about jobs, clean air, American ingenuity, and win-win relationships? 

I’m concerned the public too often hears a dialogue of division and uncertainty from the clean energy industry, leaving one to conclude, “I guess renewables aren’t quite ready for primetime”.

Wouldn’t a better question be, how can the US government apply it’s diplomacy and market influence to champion it’s domestic clean energy industry?

A Story from the Future

The Auxin storyline reminded me of the clean energy alternate reality unfolding in Norway.

If you haven’t heard, Norway has quietly exceeded 90% EV adoption rates – this year! Not 2040, but today (2022). How did they do that?!

Norway achieved this milestone by following a proven formula:

  1. Identifying and naming a single major threat to the security and future of it’s constituents (climate change)
  2. Electing federal leadership that could work together to address the issue
  3. Enacting and supporting sweeping government policies to correct market failures that account for the social cost of carbon
  4. Monitor, analyze, modify, and improve

The Norwegian’s success is the result of decades-long strategy applied. A testimony to a governing body playing the long-game and working together against a common threat. 

But one Scandinavian country of 5 million is a drop in the bucket on the global stage. Could a country like the US achieve similar results?

Wartime Escalation

If both sides of the isle in the US committed to backing our climate commitments, couldn’t we spur a war-link mobilization to bolster our domestic clean energy supply chain? Not to mention an opportunity to diffuse a worrying social trend towards political extremism and polarization.

It’s a tough tightrope. Earlier this summer, the US president who campaigned as the “greenest administration in US history” visited the Middle East, hat in hand, asking the Saudi Crown Prince to “please produce more oil because gas prices are quite high.”

Shortly after, the Biden administration enacted the largest climate action legislation in our country’s history, cleverly reframing as a “fight against inflation” dubbed the Inflation Reduction Act. (We Americans always need a good villain to fight against.)

Non-partisan analysts expect the bill to reduce US greenhouse gas emissions by 40% compared to 2005 levels.

While the IRA contains flaws, and manages to avoid the whole carbon pricing question (I won’t get into all the details here), this is big. It’s a notable and welcome reversal from the volatile Auxin Solar doldrums just a few months ago.

Riding the Wave

While celebrations are in order, we all recognize we must do more. How else can we ride this momentum? What else can we do to solidify our standing as world-leaders on the clean energy transition.

The Federal government could copy it’s subsidy playbook for the fossil fuel industry, currently to the tune of 5.9 Trillion annually, offering similar breaks to the clean energy industry.

We could enact federally-backed financing mechanisms for clean energy upgrades (think mortgages for clean energy investments).

Tackling these issues requires unity, teamwork, and federal leadership. We’ve made a step towards that goal this summer. 

What a fantastic opportunity for the US to show it’s might and fight a common enemy together. What better time than now?

We owe it to ourselves and future generations to double down on our clean energy goals, keep our foot on the accelerator, and press federal representatives for continued leadership on clean energy commitments. Striving towards a future with cleaner air, home-grown clean energy, and good-paying American jobs is hard to argue. Let’s get to work.

About the Author

I’m working alongside a talented team to provide organizations with intelligent onsite solutions that support carbon-free electrification and transportation.

I live in San Diego and enjoy hiking, bicycling, spending time with his son, and pondering the clean energy transition. You can reach me directly at alex.kaufman@powerflex.com

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