In this special election edition of the Gist, we take a look at the election and what it means for climate tech with a focus at the state level.
The Gist? There was a green wave in several states that should now go bigger and bolder on climate policy starting in January. And that’s on top of the tailwinds provided by the Inflation Reduction Act.
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The Election’s Green Wave
While the national media has focused on control of the House and Senate, climate techies should take a careful look at some major changes at the state level that generally augur well for our sector. We’re going to focus on the four M’s - Michigan, Maryland, Massachusetts, and Minnesota - where a green wave is in full effect.
All four were already frankly doing quite well on driving forward a climate agenda - bipartisan progress is actually possible - but all have now gone from split government control to full Democratic control. Climate policy should go into overdrive in all four states.
Here’s the Gist:
MICHIGAN - EVs and distributed generation could get a boost
Incumbent Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) was reelected and the legislature is in Democratic control for the first time in 40 years. Whitmer released her Michigan Healthy Climate Plan last year via executive order, which, without a friendly legislature, was more aspirational than reality. But that should now change. The plan would reduce greenhouse emissions 52% by 2030, compared to 1990 levels.
We expect Michigan goes full throttle on a variety of clean energy issues, but especially electric vehicles and batteries. Last April, Michigan announced $500 rebates for Level 2 chargers and $2,000 rebates for EVs. As the historical engine of US auto manufacturing, Michigan may now become one of the most pro-EV states in the US.
Also, according to one well-placed MI source, the current 1% cap on distributed generation, which is in statute, could finally get lifted or at least expanded by the all Dem legislature. This could be “big” for distributed energy companies who may have been reluctant to enter the market in the past due to the capped opportunity.
MARYLAND - Onwards to electrification and resiliency
Gov.-elect Wes Moore (D) ran with a climate platform and detailed climate plan with the goal of ensuring Maryland runs on 100% clean energy by 2035. He’ll work to reduce 60% of greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. He also emphasized the importance of climate resiliency with a focus on adding seawalls and reducing flooding. Moore will appoint a new Chair of the Public Service Commission (PSC) early next year, which will change the focus and orientation of the PSC.
Maryland’s all Democratic legislature already passed ambitious climate legislation to cut emissions to net zero by 2045. The bill didn’t ban natural gas hookups by 2024 as initially proposed, but don’t be surprised if this comes back up in 2023. The all Democratic government will likely push faster to get the state off natural gas and to electrify everything.
MASSACHUSETTS - The natural gas transition will accelerate
While Massachusetts switched from a Republican to a Democratic Governorship (and even more historically to an all-female executive suite), the state already had one of the most ambitious climate platforms. Outgoing Republican Gov. Charlie Baker signed a progressive bipartisan law, the 2021 Climate Act, last year requiring the state to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent below 1990 levels by 2030.
Gov.-elect Maura Healey (D), the current Attorney General, ran on climate and said that implementing that Act would be her biggest focus. If there is one area that may go faster now, it’s the move away from natural gas. As AG, she asked FERC to take a harder look at natural gas pipelines, blocked two gas pipelines and asked the Department of Public Utilities to investigate the future of natural gas utilities.
Healey is also gung-ho on the already stated goal of installing one million heat pumps by 2030. Electrification will be the name of the game for the next four years. Look as well for a lot of attention on affordability and equity during this transition.
MINNESOTA - Turning the Governor’s climate plan into law
Democrats took control of the state legislature and Gov. Tim Walz was reelected. Walz already unveiled an ambitious climate plan in September. We expect that the legislature will codify sections of this climate plan next year during the legislative session. This could include reviving Walz’s call for carbon-free electricity by 2040, and revisiting previous plans to adopt a clean fuels standard. The latter goes hand-in-hand with Walz’s vision for 20% of cars to be electric by 2030, as well as cutting vehicle emissions by 80% by 2040, so expect a big push on EVs in Minnesota.
A few other hot takes:
Nevada headwinds - Nevada’s climate plan is likely on hold for the next four years under Republican Gov.-elect Joe Lombardo. But the Democratic legislature should prevent any major anti-climate policy from getting enacted, and outgoing Gov. Sisolak’s appointees to the Public Service Commission aren’t up for a few years.
Mixed bag in Arizona - Katie Hobbs, Arizona’s Democratic Gov.-elect, ran on a platform focused on building a resilient Arizona with a big focus on water management. As of now, the GOP has a one-seat advantage in Senate and House legislatures that would require bipartisan support to make clean energy a priority. Arizona’s two open Corporation Commission spots went to candidates who argued against subsidies for EVs and chargers and vowed to keep California-style energy policies out of Arizona.
Steady Eddy in New Mexico, Maine, Pennsylvania, & Wisconsin -Democratic Governors were reelected in all four states with solid climate agendas; both New Mexico and Maine have democratic legislatures so progress should continue there; Wisconsin also avoided a Republican supermajority in the legislature so Gov. Evers will be able to veto any anti-climate legislation. PA Gov.-elect Shapiro has a somewhat more friendly legislature with Democrats taking house control, but the Senate remains Republican so there’s unlikely to be any big climate legislation.
Were you surprised by the green wave? What do you think midterms mean for the climate?
News from Our Network
From our clients:
CNBC featured Aeroseal for its plan to end drafty houses.
Pano was interviewed on MIT’s “In Tech We Trust” on how AI is being used to catch wildfires.
Forbes highlights how E.ON Power switched every single customer to renewable energy using Kraken Technologies from Octopus Energy.
AiDash announced a new round of funding from SE Ventures (backed by Schneider Electric) to drive climate resilience from utilities.
A Copper Labs pilot program with National Grid showed 18% natural gas savings during a bomb cyclone in New York.
Fortune featured ev.energy for its one-of-a-kind cord, Smartenit, and mobile app to help apartment dwellers better manage their EV charging.
From friends and colleagues:
Dandelion Energy announced a $70 million round of funding and is planning on bringing customers new financing options (key to the growth of rooftop solar!).
Our friends at American Efficient released a series of hilarious videos starring seals (yes, the swimming kind) on the importance of sealing your home.
RMI released a report on what utility regulators need to know about the IRA.
Sealed President Andy Frank has a Tweetstorm worth reading on why heat pumps are exploding.
Jobs in our network:
Send us your job openings in cleantech policy, startups, and utilities, and we'll put them in next month's Gist.
Pano is looking for a Government Account Executive.
Octopus Energy/Kraken Flex is hiring a DERMS Business Development Lead.
Dandelion Energy needs a Senior Director of Product Management.
Franklin Energy is hiring a Director of Market Development - Transportation Electrification.
Generac is on the lookout for a Director Policy & Regulatory Affairs - East Federal.
RMI is on the lookout for a Manager, Business Models and Regulation for their Carbon-Free Electricity team.
American University's Institute for Carbon Removal Law and Policy (ICRLP) is hiring a Director of Research.
Reasons for Hope, Reasons for Despair
Hope... The IRA is already helping to on-shore US jobs; Enphase announced it will produce millions of solar microinverters in the US by 2023.
Despair… 11 billion snow crabs have disappeared from the Bering Sea, which is a $200 million-dollar industry. Early indicators are that climate change is to blame, but the why is still being determined.