Congressional Hearing on “Reviving Our Economy: COVID-19’s Impact to the Energy Sector”

Jun 19, 2020

by ASME.org

Last week, the Subcommittee on Energy of the Committee on Energy and Commerce held a hearing to discuss the economic toll that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the energy sector in the United States. As Full Committee Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-IL) noted in his hearing memo, by mid-May the U.S. energy sector had lost a total of 1.3 million jobs. The clean energy industry specifically, which encompasses solar and wind energy, energy efficiency, energy storage, clean vehicles, and more, has lost almost 600,000 jobs since the start of the pandemic. Hearing witnesses testified to how their specific sectors have been affected and the opportunities they see for industry growth in the future.
 
By the end of 2019, the clean energy industry employed nearly 3.4 million Americans, making it the largest employer in all energy occupations. For this reason, witnesses emphasized that strengthening the clean energy industry is essential to revitalizing the U.S. economy in the wake of the COVID-19 epidemic. In particular, there was an emphasis on building up the offshore wind industry. Ernest Moniz, President and CEO of Energy Futures Initiative and Former Secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy, highlighted the potential for offshore and deep-water wind energy to become economically viable with further innovation in floating platforms and a more coherent approach to the supply chain. Moniz also advocated for investments in electricity storage, nuclear energy (including small modular reactors, or SMRs), advanced manufacturing, and carbon removal from the atmosphere and oceans.
 
Gregory Wetstone, President and CEO of the American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE), opened his remarks by noting that clean energy is an important driver for American economic growth. Since 2009, the industry has seen $430 billion worth of private sector investments, due to a steep decline in cost of materials, rising demand, and increasingly supportive state and federal policies. The pandemic has made this support from state and federal governments even more vital. Wetstone commended Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin for his work in extending the continuity safe harbor for renewable energy projects to qualify for tax credits. Notice 2020-40, released by the IRS on May 27, allows projects that started construction in 2016 or 2017 an additional year to be completed without being disqualified for tax credits. Wetstone highlighted this Notice as an important example of the federal government’s support of the clean energy industry.
 
The witnesses expressed support for additional measures to be taken to bolster the energy sector during the pandemic. Wetstone advocated for temporary refundability for renewable tax credits and a delay of the scheduled “phase down” of the production and investment tax credits. He stated that these federal tax credits are an “extremely effective way to leverage the marketplace and support economic growth.” Moniz echoed these points, noting that energy (and electricity in particular) is the “key infrastructure on which other infrastructures depend” and that any further stimulus actions should include clean energy investments as a high priority.
 
A complete list of witnesses is provided below:
  • Ernest J. Moniz, President and CEO, Energy Futures Initiative and Former Secretary, U.S. Department of Energy
  • Gregory Wetstone, President and CEO, American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE)
  • Rich Powell, Executive Director, ClearPath
To view all the witness testimony, or to watch a recording of the hearing, please visit: https://energycommerce.house.gov/committee-activity/hearings/hearing-on-reviving-our-economy-covid-19s-impact-on-the-energy-sector.
 

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