A Clean Start for Energy Leadership

CHAPTER 1


New President, new attitude

America has always played an outsized role on the global stage, but not always when it comes to climate leadership. The team in the White House has created an opportunity to explore not only where respondents see responsibility for taking action, but also whether they see the Biden administration as changing the landscape they are operating in. There is a paradox: when it comes to regulations, energy decision-makers want the government to lead but also get out of the way.

Is industry shirking responsibility?

What role should the federal government play in the move to renewable energy? And what about business? In such a market-centered economy, you could expect that the corporate sector would step up more to help drive the change, but the reality was surprising. When it comes to leadership, corporations are looking to the government, more than the private sector, to drive the clean energy transition.

While businesses have a key role to play in the climate fight, most corporate energy decision-makers are looking to Washington, D.C., to take leadership, not only within the nation, but on the global stage.

While almost two in three respondents (65 percent) agreed that the United States should act as a global leader in combatting climate change, when it comes to corporations taking leadership in this effort, the results were more nuanced: 91 percent of respondents agreed that corporations have some sort of role to play in the transition to renewable energy, but only 38 percent of energy decision-makers said that the private sector has a leading role to play.

65%

of energy decision-makers agree the US should serve as a global leader in combatting climate change.

Expectations of the Biden administration are high

Most respondents were optimistic about the transition to a renewable energy future under the Biden administration. A clear majority of energy decision-makers believed that organizations’ ability to transition to renewable energy will improve (62 percent), while fewer than one in ten think things will decline (8 percent).

When it comes to the Biden administration, the majority of decision-makers believed it will make the transition to renewable energy easier, even if they felt the U.S. was already doing a good job at playing a leading role in combatting climate change.

Impact of the Biden Administration

Among those who think the U.S. should lead on climate change:

0%

Think transitioning to renewable energy will be easier in the Biden administration

Among those who think the U.S. is leading on climate change:

0%

Think transitioning to renewable energy will be easier in the Biden administration

“He is providing investments in clean/renewable energy that will stop pollution and emissions for the foreseeable future, so that future generation can pick up on this effort.”
- Survey respondent perspective

Not everything was positive. A significant minority of decision-makers said they expect renewable energy costs to increase under this administration, though the majority still expect to increase their focus on renewable energy and to see usage grow nationwide. It will be interesting to see if the growth rate will be even higher if the feared price rise doesn’t come about.

Organizations will focus more on the transition

Under the Biden administration, we expect to see significantly increased organizational focus on implementing renewable energy. Many decision-makers cited general cost/environmental concerns driving this decision, but others also recognized the U.S. re-entry into the Paris Agreement, tax breaks and the administration’s overall greater focus on environmental sustainability as key factors. Only a scant minority (5 percent) of organizations said they planned to dial back their focus on renewable energy under the Biden administration, citing cost and operational difficulties as barriers. And one in five respondents said they were still on the fence and are going to wait to decide.

Perceived impact of Biden administration on renewable energy prioritization

Among total respondents

“We are now more likely to focus on renewable energy.”

0%

“This will not change our focus on renewable energy.”

0%

“We are going to wait to learn more before we make a decision.”

0%

“We are now less likely to focus on renewable energy.”

0%
“With the U.S. joining more global climate agreements, it will be more likely that companies will get more options to focus on sustainability and renewable energy.”
- Survey respondent perspective

State and federal governments impact energy decisions

There’s also a split among respondents on how they see the impact of the state versus the federal government on their energy decision-making. While four in 10 respondents think federal and state regulations and benefits have about the same impact (39 percent), twice as many saw the federal government as having greater impact as those who cited the states (41 percent versus 19 percent).

Federal regulations and benefits have a more significant impact on organizations' decision-making than state governments

Key Takeaways


Survey respondents are guardedly optimistic that the Biden administration in Washington will improve the policy landscape and position the U.S. once again as a leader in the global fight against climate change. This aligns with actions taken by the business community throughout this year that indicate a growing commitment to renewable energy procurement, decarbonization and net-zero corporate sustainability goals based on the actions of the Biden administration.

The Biden administration is committing to substantial and significant steps. For our industry, extending tax credits, investing in grid modernization, and building out the infrastructure to support vehicle electrification all create opportunities. While some states' policies create a barrier to success, overall, the economics are aligning with the policy to make this clean energy transition a reality throughout the country.

But the biggest opportunity is for the business world to step up and lead by example. It is critical to activate more companies to take a leadership role; without them, the gap between what is needed and what is being done will not be closed fast enough. With renewable energy at a competitive price and a well-developed market offering energy solutions tailored to corporate needs, the business sector can take more responsibility for driving change. And now that the federal government is championing the growth of renewables, they should, too.

Chapter 2: Sustainability Matters, but Economics is the Driver