“The ecosystem around being energy secure is a jobs ecosystem. We’re going to create a million jobs by 2030 in the United States in this energy space because of the Inflation Reduction Act,” Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm said at the Export Import Bank’s 2022 conference in Washington, DC this week. This was an hour or so after her big announcement about achieving fusion ignition, a 60+-year quest that could dramatically transform energy in the future.
She also reminded the audience of a few hundred people that “there’s a mandate to work with diverse business owners…all over the country, all of the new emerging firms in every aspect of the sort of supply chain of clean energy” that she said has created “a whole new ecosystem of firms.”
Bloomberg New Energy Finance reported that, “Getting to net zero is a multi-trillion investment opportunity,” estimating the energy transition economy at $119.5 trillion and the net zero economy at $194.2 trillion.
That’s a huge economic opportunity for these small and women- and/or minority-owned businesses, as well as for other businesses.
“You can’t weaponize access to the sun, or access to the wind”
Granholm pointed out that Russia’s war against Ukraine has greatly accelerated Europe’s transition to renewables and a “global shift in energy, geopolitical shift in energy…created this huge push toward countries wanting to be energy secure and diversifying their energy resources so that they can be secure and not rely on unreliable partners like Russia.” She called it a “geopolitical realignment” and added that “you can’t weaponize access to the sun or access to the wind.”
The International Energy Agency (IEA) released their analysis of this global acceleration toward renewables this week in their 2022 report, saying, “The first truly global energy crisis, triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, has sparked unprecedented momentum for renewables. Governments are taking steps to accelerate renewables in order to reduce reliance on imported fuels while maintaining progress towards clean energy goals.”
Estimating that “the world (is) set to add as much renewable power in the next 5 years as it did in the past 20,” the IEA adds in its Renewables 2022 report that “global renewable power capacity is now expected to grow by 2400 gigawatts (GW) over the 2022-2027 period, an amount equal to the entire power capacity of China today.”
Maximizing energy efficiency is step one – and presents more opportunities for women-owned businesses
Rachel Kyte, former CEO of the United Nations Sustainable Energy for All program and now Dean of the Fletcher School at Tufts University, who interviewed Secretary Granholm on this EXIM stage, described energy efficiency as “the first fuel.” The Department of Energy has been tackling this issue for decades, including with the ubiquitous Energy Star program which established the efficiency standards for appliances and “other technologies that make buildings more efficient,” as Granholm put it.
“There’s going to be huge demand here,” the secretary added, “So they’re going to really have to ramp up production just to meet demand in the United States, given the generosity of the incentives and the rebates for these technologies” (in the Inflation Reduction Act and the Infrastructure and Jobs Act).
These represent more economic opportunities for women-owned small businesses, especially because the Biden administration has its Justice 40 criteria, with “a goal that 40 percent of the overall benefits of certain Federal investments flow to disadvantaged communities that are marginalized, underserved, and overburdened by pollution.” These energy efficiency systems include heat pumps, which Lauren Salz, Co-founder and CEO of heat pump contractor Sealed, described in-depth recently on Electric Ladies Podcast, in part as, “really, really quiet,” and “healthier,” and requiring “less maintenance cost over time.”
EXIM Bank supports energy economy companies in exporting or importing – including helping Eastern bloc countries reduce their reliance on Russian energy
Granholm spoke at the EXIM Bank conference because EXIM works closely with the Energy Department to grow and accelerate the clean energy economy.
One of the primary avenues of their collaboration Granholm that described is the DOE’s Net Zero World program, where nine of the 17 national labs create technology roadmaps for countries that request it. She said right now they have “a Net Zero World partnership in Egypt. We’ve got one in Nigeria.” They make sure that these roadmaps are “consistent with what the country wants to do….to get you to net zero that encompasses your geography, your industrial base, the unique aspects of your technology, your country, and has a very specific strategy.”
These roadmaps, “give some confidence to investors that there is a pathway for this investment to be successful,” and they may be able to get loan guarantees or other support from the EXIM Bank.
Another example is the DOE is working with EXIM Bank on “a big partnership with Poland,” Granholm said, to help Poland increase its energy security by diversifying their energy resources to not have to rely on it from countries like Russia.
In its simplest form, the EXIM Bank is kind of the SBA for U.S.-based companies doing export-import business. Similar to how the Small Business Administration provides loan guarantees for small businesses in the U.S., EXIM backups lenders who want to loan funds to businesses doing export/import deals that benefit U.S. businesses.