Why Georgian climate policy experts have hope in 2022

The past year has been marked by climate disasters across the country, grim climate predictions by scientists and, with the failure of the Build Back Better Act, little environmental action from Congress.

And the clock is ticking. Experts have stressed for years the need to reduce emissions drastically and quickly.

“[2022] will be a very important year for policy makers to decide what kind of future we want to live in, ”said Katie Southworth, director of the advocacy program at the Southface Institute in Atlanta.

Yet, as important as urgent action is to curb climate change, experts and activists have also said it is essential not to give up.

“I think there is always hope,” said Cicely Garrett, who works on the Energy Program for Partnership for Southern Equity. “That’s why we all come forward to do it. “

So, to start 2022, WABE’s environmental office asked experts why they had hope for the new year.

Infrastructure bill brings money to communities

Despite the failure to pass a landmark environmental bill, Congress managed to agree on an infrastructure package. It covers a lot of typical areas, like roads and bridges. But it also has climate-related elements, like building more electric vehicle chargers and funding energy efficiency improvements.

While fuel efficiency doesn’t sound as exciting as new, fast cars, Southworth said it’s important.

“It doesn’t mean hot beer and cold houses. It means a more efficient HVAC system, a more efficient refrigerator, ”she said. “So it’s really a way to conserve the energy you use and use it more efficiently, which is the easiest way to not only lower your energy bill, but also reduce your carbon footprint. ”

Southworth said the additional federal funding would boost both weather protection programs for low- and moderate-income housing, and also help make public facilities more efficient. Plus, she said, energy efficiency initiatives also create jobs: someone has to do the actual work of replacing insulation, installing new HVAC systems and other upgrades. .

Georgia Power is planning for the future

Georgia Power is the state’s largest utility, and every three years it reports how much electricity it thinks it needs in the future – and where that electricity will come from.

This breakdown of the amount of coal, the amount of solar power, the amount of nuclear and so on is called an integrated resource plan, and it’s a public process. The public service must obtain the approval of state regulators from the Civil Service Commission.

Garrett said she looks forward to this process. His group works with members of the public who wish to get involved and express themselves on the origin of their energy.

“Seeing people become more civically engaged, to defend their own communities, I think, as always, is essential and central to our work,” said Garrett.

Georgia Power’s next planning cycle is likely to include more renewables. The utility’s parent company, Southern Company, has pledged to shut down more of its coal-fired power plants. What’s more, the alternatives are getting cheaper, Civil Service Commissioner Tim Echols said.

“It’s amazing how cheap solar power – large scale solar power – has become the cheapest thing we have on the grid. And the batteries allow us to extend the life of that solar power every day, ”he said. “I think what you’re going to see the Public Service Commission do [in 2022] is to focus on batteries, as well as on much more large-scale solar energy ”

Echols also wants to make changes to help develop solar power on rooftops. A pilot program that made rooftop solar power achievable for more Georgians was capped last summer, but Echols hopes to expand it next year.

Companies go green

Electric vehicles have been making headlines in Georgia lately, with the arrival of Rivian and Bluebird’s new factory making electric buses. Advocates of electric vehicles are hoping this can lead to a change in Georgia’s policies on electric vehicles, which are not very friendly to vehicle buyers and owners.

Georgia Tech economist Dan Matisoff is encouraged by the electric vehicle buzz, but not because of state policy; he is interested in the “transformation of the green market” and the creation of a dynamic around greener companies.

“Some of my research shows that when you generate some momentum, it can generate more momentum,” he said. “There are these overflows of information that cut costs and help build supply chains. Biden’s decree on sustainability, purchasing, which has the potential to be huge. “

Because of the sheer weight of federal spending, the administration’s decision to electrify the federal fleet may also help spur the growth of electric vehicles in the private sector, said Matisoff.

Even though they’re not part of the electric vehicle or clean energy supply chain, Southworth said other companies have an important role to play – they can reduce their own emissions.

“The commitments made by large, medium and small businesses across the state really send a signal to our decision makers, at local and state level, that we really want to see meaningful change,” she said. . “And we want to see it in a time frame that helps us fight the climate in our lifetimes.”

Southworth is also encouraged by cities like Atlanta, Savannah and Athens that have made clean energy commitments.

WABE brings you the local stories and national news you value and trust. Please make a gift today.

Comments are closed.