Georgia becomes test bed for climate law

A solar manufacturing complex in Georgia may serve as the test case for whether President Joe Biden’s climate law can boost the domestic supply chain for renewable energy — and even get buy-in from GOP-led states.

South Korean company Hanwha Q Cells announced Tuesday that it’s investing $2.5 billion to build a plant near Cartersville, Ga., that will manufacture solar panels and their components, writes POLITICO’s E&E News reporter Scott Waldman. The company already has a plant in Dalton, Ga., that it plans to expand.

If it all pans out, the facilities will supply 30 percent of the nation’s solar panels by 2027. That could be a game-changer for the U.S. solar industry, which largely relies on China for components.

Biden is touting the investment as a “direct result” of last year’s climate law, while White House adviser John Podesta called it Biden’s “vision come to life.”

“A major global business chose America as the place to invest and to help build our clean energy future and create thousands of good-paying middle-class jobs in the process,” Podesta said.

The company opened the Dalton manufacturing plant in 2019, its first in the United States, and had already announced an expansion of the site in 2021. With its new investment, Hanwha Q Cells expects to create 2,500 jobs and produce enough solar panels to support 8.4 gigawatts of power by 2024.

That could ease a supply chain crunch that has already led to a slowing of solar panel installments. POLITICO reporter Kelsey Tamborrino writes that installments were down 17 percent in the third quarter of 2022 from the year before.

As the Biden administration doles out the climate law’s tax credits, investments in the solar sector are also expected to continue to grow. Last month, a report from the American Clean Power Association tallied $40 billion in new clean energy investments since the law passed in August.

What could go wrong? Georgia’s Republican governor, Brian Kemp, praised the Hanwha Q Cells investment Tuesday, but his support doesn’t necessarily mean smooth sailing in the swing state.

Just ask electric vehicle maker Rivian Automotive, which plans to invest $5 billion to build a plant in Georgia that would produce as many as 400,000 trucks a year. The factory, hailed by Kemp as an economic boon, has nevertheless become a divisive issue in the state.

It’s Wednesday — thank you for tuning in to POLITICO’s Power Switch. I’m your host, Lamar Johnson. Arianna will be back soon! Power Switch is brought to you by the journalists behind E&E News and POLITICO Energy. Send your tips, comments, questions to [email protected]

Today in POLITICO Energy’s podcast: Catherine Morehouse breaks down the Biden administration’s plans to eliminate transportation sector emissions by 2050.

Cooling on a ban
Alexander Hoehn-Saric, chair of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, looked to calm uproar from Hill Republicans over the idea that the commission was considering a ban on new gas stoves, writes Ariel Wittenburg.

Saric emphasized he was not planning a ban after another commissioner suggested regulations on gas stoves were on the table in response to a study that linked the use of gas stoves to 13 percent of childhood asthma cases.

That was enough to earn the ire of Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Republicans on the Hill, write Ariel and Nico Portuondo.

New York moves toward all-electric buildings
New York Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul has urged the state legislature to ban fossil fuel heating in buildings, writes David Iaconangelo.

Hochul’s proposal called for existing residential and commercial buildings to phase out fossil fuel heating by 2030 and 2035, respectively. New residential and commercial buildings would need to be all-electric by 2025 and 2030, respectively.

Waiting out the economic storm
Venture capitalist Alexandra Harbour believes the climate tech sector can withstand the economic pressures currently besetting the broader tech sector, Debra Kahn writes.

Harbour, a principal with Prelude Ventures, said the sector has yet to see the sort of layoffs happening in traditional tech. But the true test, she said, will come later in 2023 and 2024.

A climate fund with no funds
An international climate fund was borne out of a surprise agreement at last year’s United Nations climate summit, but two months later, it hasn’t received any monetary pledges, Sara Schonhardt writes.

The fund was created to help poorer countries deal with the damage of climate change, but it has received no commitments for funding from countries and was left out of the omnibus bill passed late last month.

California’s storms in five images: Five charts and graphs add perspective to the rain and snow that has battered the coastal state since late December causing deadly flooding, tornadoes and more.

Another round of sanctions: The United States and its allies are preparing to levy another round of sanctions on the Russian oil industry.

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The nation’s largest grid operator expects to dole out up to $2 billion in penalties to power plants that failed to provide electricity during last month’s Winter Storm Elliot. The shortfall led to outages.

Texas state legislators are looking at overhauling electricity legislation in a way that would give a boost to natural gas providers after a winter grid outage two years ago turned deadly.

Lawmakers are preparing to renew the fight to pass legislation requiring more workers on offshore energy projects. After receiving committee support, the legislation was ultimately left out of the NDAA.

That’s it for today, folks! Thanks for reading.

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