Kristen Cheriegate | ICAST Policy Analyst
President Biden’s State of the Union Address
Regarding energy, President Biden’s March 1 State of the Union (SOTU) address is arguably one of the most important recent events from the Executive Branch. It was there that the President said that energy-savings options his Administration supports would save the average American family $500 per year by 2030. Unfortunately, he did not discuss climate change as much as his party would have liked.
The climate discussion revolved around the economy. The President applauded the bipartisan infrastructure law, and the funding on its way to States. He discussed a pending bill in Congress, which is focused on accelerating U.S. innovation. Decarbonization, he said, means bringing jobs back to the U.S.
The Build Back Better bill is likely not going to see the light of day for quite some time. Senator Manchin sat with Republican Senate colleagues during the speech, and afterwards said, “[W]hat we should do is basically fix the tax code… That’s the one thing everyone can agree on.” He later added that he has not had any new talks with the White House about how to resurrect some of the provisions contained in the reconciliation package.
White House Releases Draft of Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool
The White House Council on Environmental Quality released a draft of a mapping tool that will be used to identify communities eligible for federal investment under President Biden’s Justice40 initiative. The draft Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool focuses on census tracts that are low-income and at risk from climate change, pollution, or underinvestment; however, it does not explicitly use race as an indicator, which has drawn criticism.
New Mexico Legislature Passes Bill to Reduce Energy Burdens for Low-Income Communities
New Mexico’s House Bill (HB) 37, “Community Energy Efficiency Development Block Grant,” was officially signed into law by Governor Grisham. This law allows counties, municipalities, Indian nations, tribes, and the New Mexico Mortgage Finance Authority to apply for block grants for targeted energy efficiency projects in underserved communities. According to one of its sponsors, HB 37 “will put money back in the pockets of struggling families, while creating local jobs and reducing energy consumption to support our efforts to reduce emissions and combat climate change.”
Historic Solar Achievements in Illinois, Thanks to Recent Law
It has been nearly six months since Illinois’ historic “Climate and Equitable Jobs Act” was passed. Hailed by Governor Pritzker as “the most significant step Illinois has taken toward a reliable, renewable, affordable, and clean energy future in a generation,” the law has made swift moves in the short period since its signing. Data from the Illinois Power Agency, and surveys of solar businesses in the State, showed the following:
- 8,052 waitlisted solar projects have moved forward and are expected to be approved by the Illinois Commerce Commission this month;
- 250 MW of new community solar projects have been approved– when completed, these projects will allow an estimated 35,000 families to lower their electric bills without installing solar panels;
- More than 2,000 rooftop and community solar projects have already been installed and are generating enough electricity to power more than 30,000 homes; and
- Illinois businesses will complete more than 8,400 rooftop and community solar projects by the end of 2022.