Tuesday, April 20th, Former Tennessee Governor and Clearloop Founder, Phil Bredesen, addressed the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis to shine a light on how investment in clean energy will not only help the country reach its emissions goals, but also spur economic investment in the parts of the country that have been largely ignored in recent decades.
At Clearloop we fundamentally believe that the innovation and benefits of new clean energy investments should reach all corners of our country equally. Watch the full testimony below.
Prepared Statement of Hon. Philip N. Bredesen, Executive Chairman of Clearloop Corporation and Former Tennessee Governor before the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis “Making the Case for Climate Action: Creating New Jobs and Catalyzing Economic Growth”
Tuesday, April 20, 2021 12:00 p.m. ET
First, thank you Chair Castor, Ranking Member Graves and each of the Select Committee members for the invitation to be here today.
Policy debates in the public sector seem to be always surrounded by a lot of noise and irrelevant information—it’s the nature of the beast—but climate action seems to attract even more than most. As a former Governor, I sympathize with the challenge members of the committee face: taking a complex issue like this, cutting through the noise and try and understand the big shapes.
In my testimony today, I want to describe to you what I believe to be two of those big shapes in this issue.
The first one is this: the urgent need to better focus our effort. I respectfully say to everyone who cares about climate action: we need to stop chasing every glittering idea and instead ask a question. Where’s the low-hanging fruit? Where’s the first place to go?
I believe that question has an answer: The lowest-hanging fruit is the generation of electrictricity in this country. Power generation, even after all the progress we’ve made with renewables and conversion to natural gas in the past decade, still creates 25% of all greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. To put that in perspective, our grid today produces more greenhouse gases than every car on the road and every airplane in the sky in America. The rise of electric cars and the power demand that follows will put an even bigger strain on this grid.
The electric grid is an enormous opportunity for decarbonization – the tools that are already in place. The technology is mature, the economics make sense. Renewable energy has been around a while; it’s no longer this year’s show-horse. But it really is the work horse that we need right now to get started in a serious way.
The second big shape is simply the one that this Select Committee is addressing: that climate action is a potent tool for economic development and job creation. A coalition built around legislative and regulatory action to compel climate action is too narrow for us to get the job done today. Fortunately, there’s a far broader one waiting to be built around creating jobs, a new tax base, and opportunities for the next generation of entrepreneurs. I think the challenge we have is to convince skeptics that the economic benefits are real and not just talking points.
Solar generation is a good example: by its nature it is highly distributed, with the benefits spread broadly across the country rather than being dotted in a few places like new factories. It needs large tracts of land are needed, and that means rural and often poorer communities are great candidates for these investments. In those counties, it creates much appreciated local jobs while it is being built, and once it’s built, it provides tangible local benefits for decades.
The way in which energy is generated in America is undergoing a fundamental shift that will continue for decades. In fact, 2020 was the third consecutive year for record-setting corporate investment in new renewable energy projects here in North America.
Yet, the distribution of clean energy investments is often disjointed and uneven. In the United States, the simple act of turning on the lights can have a significantly bigger carbon impact if you live in Nashville, Tennessee for example, than if you lived in San Francisco, California. That’s because the electric grid is broken up into a number of regions, and they all have a number of different power sources.
Two years ago, I helped co-found a startup called Clearloop with the goal of cleaning up the grid and expanding access to clean energy, by opening up solar to many more kinds of companies and organizations. We’re shifting the way corporate investments reduce carbon by trying to bring solar projects to regions of the country that have the most carbon-intense electric generation. We believe that doing things this way will achieve deeper and faster emissions reduction and it also brings good clean energy jobs and economic investment in regions of the country that need them.
This week, Clearloop is announcing that Silicon Valley based Intuit, Philadelphia based Dropps, Seattle based CoolPerx, and Nashville’s NHL team, The Predators are partnering with us to help fund a solar project in Jackson, Tennessee. A city nestled in between Memphis and Nashville and at the heart of rural west Tennessee.
We’re just getting started and have a long way to go as a small startup, but what we’re proving with Clearloop is that corporate climate action promotes real economic investment in communities looking to attract more investment and talent.
I believe that if we focus, and use this change to build American infrastructure where it’s most needed, we can help the American people, our nation and our planet.
How can Congress help? Here are a some practical steps, not politicized overarching promises or big spends:
- Carve out and cap the capital gains taxes for land owners selling land for clean energy projects.
- Allow FERC to reward utilities that publicize their price for energy for longer than 5 years.
- Reward utilities that publicly share the load data for interconnection and make the queue system public and transparent.