By Amelia Schlusser, Staff Attorney
In February of 2015, the Obama Administration announced its Clean Energy Investment Initiative, which aimed to mobilize $2 billion in private-sector investment in clean energy and climate technologies. Earlier this week, the Administration announced that over the last four months it had far exceeded this goal and received commitments for more than $4 billion in clean energy investments. The Administration shared the news at a Clean Energy Investment Summit hosted at the White House on Tuesday, June 16. During the Summit, Vice President Biden highlighted recent public and private sector efforts to expand investment in clean energy and climate change solutions, which include a $500 million investment commitment from the University of California, $500 million from Goldman Sachs, $350 million from the New Zealand Superannuation Fund, $200 million from the Alaska Permanent Fund, and $100 million from TIAA-CREF.
In conjunction with Tuesday’s Summit, the Obama Administration also announced a series of executive actions designed to facilitate clean energy investments. These actions include the launch of a new Clean Energy Impact Investment Center within the Department of Energy. This center will provide the public and mission-driven investors with information on developments in clean energy technologies, and will share relevant research and analysis produced by the Department of Energy and its National Laboratories.
The White House’s announcements illustrate the Obama Administration’s efforts to decrease the renewable energy industry’s reliance on taxpayer-funded subsidies and increase the industry’s access to private-sector capital. Rather than suggest a lack of public support for renewable energy, the Administration’s focus on private investment relates to the promising economic conditions within the clean energy marketplace. Renewable energy technologies are rapidly approaching cost parity with conventional fossil fuel generation, and even major Wall Street players like Goldman Sachs recognize the investment potential of smart grid and energy storage technologies.
Perhaps more importantly, investors are beginning to view clean energy investments as a hedge against climate change-related investment risks, according to Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz. The Obama Administration recognizes that clean energy will help drive the U.S. transition to a low-carbon economy, and is confident that an influx of private-sector funding will help fuel innovation and technology development within the industry. In a press release announcing Tuesday’s Summit, the White House Press Secretary emphasized the need for private investment in clean energy: “America’s world-class researchers and entrepreneurs are developing the next breakthrough technologies that will transform how we generate, store, and consume energy. We need to continue to invest in innovation to reduce carbon pollution while growing the economy—and creating entirely new industries here in America.” With more than $4 billion committed to date, it seems that the private investment community is finally starting to accept that fossil fuels are exposing our economy to unprecedented risk. Clean energy offers a far better investment for the American environment and economy, and the $4 billion invested over the last four months shows that the American economy is starting to come around to this fact.