Cheers & Jeers in Cleantech 2015

To wrap up 2015, the cleantech team at Eastwick put our heads together and dished on all the juicy news from this year — the good and the bad, the promising and the discouraging and even the hopeful and the frustrating. We’ve done the leg work for you so all you need to do to sound smart at your holiday parties is to read the below (brownie points if you share on social media!) If you think we’ve left out anything that registered as game-changing please reach out to us at Cleantech@Eastwick.com or send us a tweet: @sgkays and @brownmjason

Cheer: Investment Tax Credit
 Just hours before lawmakers left for their holiday break, leaders in the House and Senate passed a spending package on December 18th that included multi-year extensions of solar and wind tax credits, plus one-year extensions for a range of other renewable energy technologies. More specifically, the 30 percent Investment Tax Credit (ITC) for solar will be extended for another three years. It will then ramp down incrementally through 2021, and remain at 10 percent permanently beginning in 2022. Read more in this piece by William Pentland in Forbes.

Jeer: Anti-Clean Power Plan
Power plants account for nearly 40 percent of U.S. carbon dioxide emissions. That’s more than the emissions from every car, truck and plane in the U.S. combined. The Clean Power Plan (CPP), which puts strict rules on coal power plants has seen a lot of support this year, and many U.S. utilities have been quietly moving to comply with the new mandates. However, some utilities, most notably Southern Co. and its four utility subsidiaries, came out and opposed the plan with lawsuits over “potential impacts on reliability and affordability of electricity in the state of Georgia.” Georgia Power also came out and said that it is “firmly committed to protecting the investments made in its operations, including generation plants across the state.” Adding to that, in October, a coalition of 24 states and a coal mining company filed lawsuits against the plan, arguing that it will hurt the coal mining industry, raise power rates for consumers and risk electricity reliability. The anti-CPP effort continues to produce misleading studies and skirt the issue: that the US needs a plan for meeting environmental regulations. The CPP will surely continue to see regulation woes in 2016, but while there’s real progress being made, it will make for an exciting year. Read more about this topic, the opposition and the latest news by Robin Bravender on E&E Publishing.

Cheer: Paris Climate Plan
A landmark climate change agreement was approved December 12th in Paris, at the 21st Conference of Parties, or COP21, which sets up a bottom-up system in which each country sets its own goal — which the agreement calls a “nationally determined contribution” — and then must explain how it plans to reach that objective. Those pledges must be increased over time, and starting in 2018, each country will have to submit new plans every five years. Although hailed by President Obama as “the best chance we have” at saving the planet, additional work and discussions are needed for this to go into effect. We’ll be watching what news comes of this from now until April 2016 when the agreement calls for a signature ceremony and requests that the U.N. Secretary-General keep the agreement open for signing until April 2017. Read more from Fiona Harvey in The Guardian.

Jeer: Candidate Commitment to Environmental Issues
Though we’re less than a year away from the next Presidential election, few candidates have provided their plans and thoughts on how they’ll tackle the issue of climate change and environmental impact. Democrats, including Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley have provided plans, and even Bobby Jindal (a Republican no longer in the running) laid out smaller-scale projects such as forest management and energy efficiency for airlines. What’s most discouraging is that not one Republican candidate is making environmentalism and all that comes with it — job creation, healthier sources of air and power and an investment in the future — a priority yet. There are a lot of pressing (and scary) issues the Presidential candidates need to present plans on, but when the leaders of the world are stepping up to make it a priority, the next leader of the United States needs to show they can understand the issues and make room for them in the coming four years. Read more in this article on Mother Jones by James West.

Cheer: Corporate Sustainability Commitment
While we could be Grinches and claim that more could always be done for Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), in 2015 a lot of companies made some impressive commitments to bettering their processes and environmental outlook. Some of the big ones include:

· Ikea, which currently owns and operates 224 wind turbines around the globe and is on track to become energy independent by 2020. The company already produces energy from its renewable sources equivalent to 42 percent of its total consumption.
· H&M put forth a $1 million prize to anyone who can offer up better ways to recycle.
· Facebook hosted its second annual Sustainability@Scale gathering, with major partners like Levi’s, Walmart and Salesforce, to develop far-ranging corporate sustainability remedies. 
Read more about CSR feats in this article on TriplePundit.

Cheer: Arnold Schwarzenegger Not Giving A Damn If You Believe In Climate Change
 If you didn’t read about the ex-California Governor taking a stand to climate change critics, do yourself a favor and check out this article by Claire Groden on Fortune.

Have any burning questions about cleantech? Interested in learning more about our cleantech practice? Contact us at cleantech@eastwick.com!

Like what you read? Give Stephanie Kays a round of applause.

From a quick cheer to a standing ovation, clap to show how much you enjoyed this story.