Gridlocked Congress puts Georgia’s clean energy progress at risk

October 12, 2023 12:53 pm

An electric vehicle charges up at a Georgia Power station located in the parking lot of a Burger King in Columbus. Jill Nolin/Georgia Recorder

The Inflation Reduction Act signed into law a year ago is helping companies like ours invest in communities, while also protecting the environment and saving consumers money. The Inflation Reduction Act is helping bring back made-in-America manufacturing, with construction spending for manufacturing reaching its highest level in 60 years.

The benefits of the clean energy plan are all around us in Georgia. I know first hand that we can add new, good-paying jobs that don’t require college degrees while also reducing pollution and avoiding the worst of the climate crisis scenarios.

I started my career as an electrician, going through an apprenticeship with IBEW. I was the first woman in Local 917 and the first black woman in Mississippi to be a journeyman in a union. For the past 23 years, I’ve owned my own electrical company. I like to say, “It feels like Christmas every day with the IRA!” Since the IRA became law, we’ve seen a significant increase in sales and interest in clean energy projects, giving us the revenue to add jobs and keep people working.

Over the past year, businesses have announced more than 270 new clean energy projects, creating over 170,600 jobs in 44 states. Many of these jobs are in communities of color, which are disproportionately impacted by climate change. More than half of these new jobs are located in Republican-led congressional districts.

But as hyper-partisan Republicans pushed the government to the brink of a shutdown, House Republicans continue trying to gut the Inflation Reduction Act—even as some celebrate the jobs coming to their districts. A government shutdown means we will lose these new jobs and investments; the “Made in America” movement which fuels new manufacturing and community development projects would cease.

Since the Inflation Reduction Act was passed a year ago, a total of $18.83 billion worth of investments in clean energy projects and 16,678 jobs have been announced in Georgia. The company I own, Power Solutions, is an Atlanta-based progressive electrical contracting firm. The IRA has given me an opportunity to scale my business like never before, and also helped me get my EV-charging manufacturing venture off the ground, so that the one-third of electric vehicle drivers who are women have safer places to charge their cars. It’s a great time to be a trailblazer and a pioneer in Georgia.

There are currently around 394,600 Georgia workers with manufacturing jobs, and as of 2021, 75,211 Georgians working in clean energy. If we continue to take proactive steps to embrace renewable energy, these numbers are only going to grow. By 2030, the Inflation Reduction Act will bring an estimated $180 million of investment in large-scale clean power generation and storage to Georgia.

Wind and solar now cost less than coal, oil, and methane gas. The cheaper that technology like solar panels, electric vehicles, and lithium-ion batteries gets, the more accessible and widespread clean energy will become. And the easier we’ll breathe: the Inflation Reduction Act is projected to help our country avoid 100,000 asthma attacks by 2030. 

Tax credits in the Inflation Reduction Act will cover 30% of the costs of community solar projects in Georgia and an extra 20% for projects at affordable housing properties, allowing these families to save money on electric bills. New homeowners can also save hundreds of dollars on utility bills through grants that encourage the adoption of up-to-date energy codes.

The Inflation Reduction Act is broadly popular with Georgians once they’re given information about the plan’s goals and accomplishments. Yet Republicans have tried to repeal it no less than 17 times. As executives helping to lead the charge on clean energy, we’re urging our leaders not to let that happen. 

The transition to a clean energy economy won’t happen overnight. The IRA money going towards workforce development has already been especially helpful for women and lower-income individuals. I can’t tell you how many women have contacted me directly and told me that the workforce development programs have enabled them to go into six-figure jobs. Why would anyone want to stop that progress? 

We must keep moving forward—not let short-sighted politicians drag us backwards. If we take the time to put the right pieces in place now and make our state and our country a welcoming place for new investments and innovation, all of us will benefit. 

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