Opinions

Strong Republican leadership on bipartisan clean energy solutions

Republicans in Congress, led by Alaska’s own Sen. Lisa Murkowski, should be proud of the hard work it took to include an array of clean energy provisions in the recent bipartisan COVID-19 relief and omnibus spending bill. These provisions include the Energy Act of 2020 — the first clean energy innovation package passed by Congress in more than a decade — and will help advance clean energy here in Alaska and across the country.

In addition to sponsoring many of the provisions in the Energy Act of 2020, Sen. Murkowski also led the effort to include the legislative package in the omnibus bill. She worked across party lines and chambers to advance a spate of energy initiatives that will help us reduce emissions, create jobs and power a stronger, more resilient American economy.

This is precisely the kind of leadership that Americans want to see from their elected officials. Congress’ work to elevate clean energy and climate discussions in the final spending bill of the year gives me great hope for even more progress on these issues in 2021.

Having worked extensively to advance clean energy issues in Alaska during my time as a state legislator, this fight is extremely personal for me. Over the years, I partnered both with my colleagues in the Alaska State Legislature on both sides of the aisle – people like Sen. Bill Wielechowski, Rep. Bryce Edgmon and former Reps. Charisse Millett and Harry Crawford, as well as Sen. Murkowski’s office directly to champion energy policies and clean energy solutions that would help protect our state’s natural resources while creating new economic opportunities for hardworking Alaskans.

At the state level, we passed a 50% mandate for renewable energy production supply in the state by 2025; created the weatherization fund to help Alaskans make energy-efficient updates to their homes, creating 2,500 new jobs in the process; and overturned a governor’s veto of a $25 million effort to help Alaska municipalities and boroughs retrofit their buildings to improve environmental standards. We also helped streamline the regulatory environment for renewable projects reducing barriers that led to the construction of turbines on Fire Island and clean wind energy for Southcentral Alaska. All of these efforts helped advance the energy and economic interests of Alaska while spurring continued work at the federal level.

As part of the omnibus bill passed by Congress and now signed into law by President Donald Trump, the Energy Act of 2020 authorizes a total of $35 billion for clean energy and energy efficiency, mostly over the next five years. Renewable resources – including wind, solar, geothermal, hydropower and marine energy – receive special attention in its text, from research and development to the establishment of a national goal for production on federal lands and as we fought for in Alaska, improved permitting and a streamlined regulatory framework.

The package also invests in a range of other initiatives – from carbon capture and energy storage to grid modernization – that will help spur American innovation, create jobs, and bolster our economy, all while allowing the U.S. to remain a global leader in carbon reduction. Alaskans, in particular stand to benefit. In fact, several provisions are specifically tailored to better meet the needs and opportunities of our state.

The bipartisan passage of clean energy legislation as part of the recent omnibus bill is a clear indicator that Republicans are ready to lead on clean energy and climate change. As we seek to rebuild our economy, I am both grateful for the kind of conservative leadership that Sen. Murkowski has demonstrated on these issues and hopeful that the 117th Congress will continue moving commonsense, bipartisan clean energy solutions to protect our environment while benefitting the American people.

Lesil McGuire is a former member of the Alaska State Legislature, having served in both the state Senate and House of Representatives.

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