Driving the Clean Energy Economy Forward in 2019—and into the Next Decade!

December 19, 2019 | Lynn Abramson, President, CEBN

As another decade draws to a close, the clean energy industry has a lot to celebrate. Clean energy technologies now represent the growth sectors of the U.S. energy economy and supply half our nation’s electricity. Significant work remains to address policy, market, and technology barriers to decarbonization—but it is also important to look back and reflect on the progress in the energy industry.

The Clean Energy Business Network (CEBN) is pleased to work alongside the small businesses across our network to support the growth of the clean energy economy. Throughout 2019, CEBN members and partners stepped up by participating in events across the country, traveling to Washington to advocate in the halls of Congress, and making their voices heard through letters and op-eds. Examples of how these business leaders moved the needle are provided below.

 Federal Funding for Energy Innovation

In March, fourteen energy innovators came to Washington, DC to demonstrate the importance of clean energy research and development programs. All of these businesses have helped bring new technologies to market through partnerships with the Department of Energy (DOE) and other federal agencies.

Energy innovators showcase the impact of federal R&D programs on Capitol Hill

That very same week, the White House unveiled a budget proposal to slash DOE funding by 11% and eliminate the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) entirely.

But CEBN members and partners across the industry kept up the push, writing letters to Congress and publishing op-eds in communities across the nation (see member opeds in MI, OH, TN, ME and a CEBN oped on the impact of energy innovation programs).

As industry and advocates kept up the charge, Congress is now on the verge of passing a bipartisan bill to boost Deportment of Energy funding by $2.9 billion compared to prior year levels (an 8% increase) and ramp up ARPA-E’s budget by more than 16%.

Clean Energy Tax Incentives

For the past two years, many renewable energy, energy efficiency, and alternative fuel providers have lost projects due to uncertainty over the future of expired clean energy tax incentives or a lack of parity in the tax code.

CEBN members made their voices heard throughout 2019, calling on Congress to provide greater certainty for small businesses, investors, and customers across the clean energy industry. More than 64 businesses signed onto a group letter calling for action on clean energy tax policy, while 60 leveraged CEBN’s new Tax Action Central tool to send customized messages on specific tax priorities.

Six clean energy businesses also met with Congressional offices in Washington DC or in-district on this topic and one published an oped in Ohio. CEBN also partnered with the Heat is Power Association to secure introduction of Senate and House bills to create an investment tax credit for waste heat to power.

This week, Congress is set to pass a compromise appropriations and tax package that would retroactively restore expired clean energy tax incentives (e.g., the non-wind Production Tax Credit technologies, energy efficiency, and alternative fuels) until 2020 (or in the case of biodiesel, 2022).

Left out of the package, unfortunately, are new or expanded credits for energy storage, waste heat to power, offshore wind, electric vehicles, and various renewable energy technologies. However, CEBN will continue to push on these fronts in 2020.

Reforms to Federal Grant Programs

CEBN engaged members in identifying and advocating reforms to make federal Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) more accessible and impactful to entrepreneurs. Federal SBIR programs provide support small business research, development, and commercialization of promising technologies. SBIR awards can be transformative—yet they often have administrative, financial, or procedural requirements that can be barriers to the very small businesses they are intended to help.

CEBN President Lynn Abramson testifies before the House Small Business Committee on policies impacting small businesses in the clean energy economy

CEBN engaged businesses in a collaborative process in 2019 to develop a set of SBIR reform principles, mobilized 46 business signatures on letters to Congress, and discussed these issues in an op-ed. Add your name to the letter in advance of Congressional action on small business programs in the spring of 2020.

Thanks in large part to much of these efforts by our members to be heard by Congress, the CEBN was given a powerful platform to speak directly to Congressional leaders.

CEBN President Lynn Abramson was invited to testify before the House Small Business Committee in September, and discussed a range of policy issues (tax, appropriations, SBIR, and other regulations) impacting market opportunities for clean energy businesses. 

Federal and State Education

Through events, webinars, and case studies, CEBN worked to promote education of public, policymaker, and industry audiences about clean energy technology, market, and policy dynamics.

Leaders from CEBN, Nueces County, and the Port of Christi gather to explore clean energy solutions for industrial economies

In 2019, CEBN convened two CEBN Power Circuit forums as part of an ongoing regional series explore opportunities and barriers to clean energy deployment at the state and regional levels. These included a June event with Natixis Investment Managers discussing Boston and the Global Cleantech Investment Landscape and a November event with the Port of Corpus Christi and Nueces County, TX exploring Clean Energy Solutions for Industrial Economies (also see relevant op-ed). Nearly 150 business and policy leaders collectively participated in these events.

CEBN provided several webinar updates on national and state level policy and market trends (e.g., North American carbon markets; Sustainable Energy in America Factbook briefing).

And throughout 2019, CEBN continued to release educational profiles for the ongoing Faces Behind the Facts series, which tells the stories of clean energy business leaders behind the U.S. energy transformation. The most recent included a fish tale you won’t believe, a power play 140 years in the making, and superior steel produced with less energy. Apply now to feature your story in 2020!

Business Development and Industry Collaboration

Finally, CEBN worked to serve as a catalyst for industry collaboration overall and business development and growth for individual companies.

CEBN researched and aggregated $12.5 billion in federal, state, and private-sector funding opportunities into a searchable Funding Database for premium members, putting new opportunities on their radar and saving them time and effort. CEBN also facilitated business development connections with the addition of a customizable “Connect” button” in the online Member Directory for premium members, a “Member Connections” section of the newsletter, and staff-driven introductions.

CEBN offered several webinars focused on helping small businesses strengthen their management practices, which were collectively viewed by more than 110 participants. For example, CEBN partnered with Natixis Investment Managers on a three-part webinar series exploring employee benefits and workforce dynamics impacting recruitment. CEBN also partnered with Weaver, an accounting services firm and Executive Circle member, to produce a CEBN Technical Dialogues webinar on business valuation considerations for cleantech businesses and investors of all stages.

Dave McCarthy of PEDC explains the audience feedback and pitch re-run process

In May, CEBN partnered with Potential Energy DC, an incubator and accelerator serving cleantech and sustainability start-ups in the metro Washington DC area, on a practice pitch to help early-stage firms hone their investor pitches. Two CEBN member companies also participated in PEDC pitch competitions before a live audience of investors and cleantech innovators.

And finally, CEBN launched a new collaboration with Cleantech Leaders Roundtable—a group of leading cleantech executives and investors—to support industry fellowship and positive communications on clean energy throughout the year. Contact Lynn to learn more about opportunities to engage.

For its work to support small businesses in the clean energy sector, CEBN was pleased to be recognized in the Cleanie Awards® as the Gold Non-Profit of the Year. This award underscored the fact that participation from members is indispensable.  And to that end, Jeff Wolfe, one of CEBN’s members, stepped up on stage at Solar Power International to receive the award on behalf of the organization.

CEBN member Jeff Wolfe accepts the Cleanie Awards Gold Nonprofit of the Year at Solar Power International, September 2019

On behalf of CEBN staff and the Board of Directors, thank you to all of our members and partners for your efforts to make the U.S. energy economy cleaner, more efficient, more affordable, and more reliable.

We look forward to heading into a bright new year—and decade—with you in 2020.