Clean Power Plan the energy story of the 21st century

The chaotic political season that has defined the 2016 presidential campaign experienced a jolt over the Presidents’ Day weekend with the passing of Justice Antonio Scalia.

Justice Scalia, the court’s conservative conscience, had been key to an expected 5-4 majority on a number of issues that are on the docket this session, including the review of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan.

The CPP is a state-by-state plan to cut carbon emissions from existing power plants. It is vital to our efforts to not only slow climate change, but also to demonstrate U.S. leadership on one of the most consequential issues of our time. If the EPA’s plan survives the legal challenges to its authority it will cap an eight-year period during which our century-old energy infrastructure, and its dependence on fossil fuels, will have been significantly transformed.

That transformation began in the winter of 2009 when a blueprint for putting the country back to work was unveiled. That plan, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, positively impacted job creation in many market sectors within our economy — from education to energy. ARRA was instrumental in not only averting what would have been the second Great Depression, but in changing the overall energy story for the 21st century.

As the seventh anniversary of ARRA quietly passed last week, the green industrial revolution it set off is still reinventing our economy and providing jobs for American workers.
ARRA has turned out to be the most ambitious energy legislation in history – a down payment of more than $90 billion on a new energy economy. It funded unprecedented investments in wind and solar, energy efficiency and electric vehicles, and provided the capital to retool our factories and to train a green workforce.

Today these efforts are still paying dividends in terms of jobs, energy-cost savings, and greenhouse gas reductions.

ARRA jump-started the solar transition, funding the nation’s first five solar power plants in excess of 100 MW. Today, private investment has grown that number to 28 nationwide – and these plants are supplying clean energy to more than six million homes.

Photovoltaic installations as a whole have increased more than eight times since ARRA funding began to flow into PV projects nationwide. In 2010, the solar industry installed 929 MW of solar capacity. In 2015, over 7,430 MW were installed, and as a result the average price of solar panels has dropped more than 60 percent since 2010.

According to the 2015 Solar Job Census, since 2010 there have been more than 115,000 new U.S. jobs created in the solar sector. The solar industry now supports over 208,000 direct jobs, and when factoring in the solar supply chain that number jumps to over 610,000 jobs.
ARRA helped re-invent the U.S. auto industry too, establishing America as the world’s leading plug-in electric vehicle market through its support of 37 advanced battery and electric drive component manufacturing plants. It grew the country’s EV charging infrastructure from 500 stations to over 12,400.

ARRA funded the world’s largest land-based wind farm and built some of the world’s largest wind test facilities — helping to bring the cost of wind power down to an average cost of $0.04 per kilowatt hour, which is competitive with other “traditional” forms of energy.

This investment grew wind generation nationwide by 145 percent from 2008 to 2012, and today more than 66 million homes receive some of their electricity from wind power.

I am in awe of the lasting legacy of ARRA. As the former energy director for Arizona, I was honored to have had the opportunity to develop and implement the Arizona ARRA plan, and to have worked side-by-side with so many dedicated people that gave so much of themselves in this effort.

Their contributions mattered then and they matter now. ARRA laid the foundation for a new energy economy that will make a difference in our world for years to come. If the Clean Power Plan survives the partisan challenges it faces, it will build a cleaner energy future on the ARRA foundation.

Jim Arwood
Communications Director
Arizona Solar Center

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