Commentary: Clean energy still trumps partisan politics

Jeremy Kalin is the CEO of Eutectics.

Jeremy Kalin is the CEO of Eutectics.

This morning, the sun rose all across the United States of America, as it has every day since Election Day.

We are no doubt a changed nation. The coming days and weeks will begin to show the depths and direction of that change.

But today, the sun is generating power – clean, cost-effective power, thanks to solar PV projects on rooftops and fields in communities across America.

The economics of solar and energy efficiency remain as strong today as they did before Election Day. Even rumored major tax reform cannot roll back the strong value proposition for clean energy. Solar projects continue to “pencil-out” for business owners, public buildings, affordable housing properties and individual homes. LED lighting will continue to be a “no-brainer,” with a solid return on investment.

Clean energy progress happens out in the community – not in a politician’s office. And we know that clean energy is good business, exceeding $44.7 billion in investments in the United States last year, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. Globally, more than $5.5 billion was invested in next-generation technology companies in clean energy and related markets.

These investments occur across the country in spite of one simple fact: the United States still has no stated national energy policy. A de facto “all of the above” strategy has resulted in oil, natural gas and coal fighting for their economic lives as energy efficiency, wind and solar have achieved true cost-competitiveness with fossil fuels.

Without a national energy policy, local governments are stepping up to ensure clean energy progress – because cities and counties typically favor progress over partisanship.

Eutectics works nationwide with local partners, including Economic Development Authorities and Chambers of Commerce, who are utilizing Clean Energy Hubs to make it easy for property owners to “go solar” and implement energy savings projects. The “Hub” model provides technical assistance and procurement help to building owners of all types, with multiple tools to provide 100% upfront project financing to ensure maximum value for owners.

The Clean Energy Hub is just one form of public-private partnerships able to connect committed private capital with qualified solar and energy savings projects. As an example, the Chisago, Minnesota Clean Energy Hub was launched earlier this year, in an exurban and conservative area 40 miles north of Minneapolis and St. Paul. Area residents have been working for two years on a community-wide revitalization strategy that included an economic development emphasis on clean energy.

Chisago County is a deep red county where Donald Trump received 61% of the vote, and the community has rallied behind a shared goal – to power Chisago County’s economy with 100% locally-generated renewable electricity.

In just a few months, more than 110 business owners, residents and local governments have initiated solar projects and energy efficiency improvements. These projects represent an aggregate value well over $2.5 million, with strong financial returns to project owners. Last month, elected officials and developers flipped the switch on the largest solar power plant in the Midwest, a 100 megawatt farm that will benefit ratepayers and provide $301,000 a year in local taxes.

You can hear directly from Chisago County community members in this new video:

Chisago County’s clean energy commitment embodies the larger story in America. Late summer polling by Pew Research showed that Trump and Clinton supporters found common ground on at least one issue: renewable energy. 77% of Trump voters support wind power projects and 84% of Trump voters support solar power farms. Clinton voters’ enthusiasm only barely exceeded that of Trump voters.

From deep red rural counties to bright blue cities, clean energy is here to stay.

We will continue making clean energy a mainstream economic development option at the scale that matters – for communities, and for individual project owners. Like any worthwhile endeavor, clean energy projects take some work – technical expertise, committed capital and a guide through the process of contracting, financing and implementation.

In the end, elections do not change the laws of physics. The sun will rise again tomorrow, and will continue to provide local communities with clean, cost-effective power.

Jeremy Kalin is CEO of Eutectics, a mission-driven company based in Minneapolis, working nation-wide to mobilize capital in underserved and untapped clean energy markets.

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