Essay by Eric Worrall
Does anyone even pretend anymore that Biden’s “Inflation Reduction Act” has anything to do with inflation?
Big new incentives for clean energy aren’t enough – the Inflation Reduction Act was just the first step, now the hard work begins
Published: August 19, 2022 5.31pm AEST
Associate Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Rice University
The new Inflation Reduction Act is stuffed with subsidies for everything from electric vehicles to heat pumps, and incentives for just about every form of clean energy. But pouring money into technology is just one step toward solving the climate change problem.
Wind and solar farms won’t be built without enough power lines to connect their electricity to customers. Captured carbon and clean hydrogen won’t get far without pipelines. Too few contractors are trained to install heat pumps. And EV buyers will think twice if there aren’t enough charging stations.
In my new book about climate solutions, I discuss these and other obstacles standing in the way of a clean energy transition. Surmounting them is the next step as the country figures out how to turn the goals of the most ambitious climate legislation Congress has ever passed into reality.
For infrastructure, tax credits for electric cars will do little good without enough publicly available chargers. The U.S. has around 145,000 gas stations, but only about 6,500 fast-charging stations that can power up a battery quickly for a driver on the go.
Over 1,300 gigawatts of wind, solar and battery projects – several times the existing capacity – are already waiting to be built, but they’ve been delayed for years by a lack of grid connections and backlogged approval processes by regional grid operators.
The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act passed by Congress last year provides some funding for chargers, power lines and pipelines, but nowhere near enough. For example, it sets aside only a few billion dollars for high-voltage power lines, a tiny share of the hundreds of billions of dollars needed to chart a path toward net-zero emissions. Its $7.5 billion for chargers is just a third of what electric car advocates project will be needed.
$21 billion for electric chargers (3 x $7.5 billion) + whatever the maintenance costs, hundreds of billions of dollars for high voltage power lines and other ancillaries in addition to the $433 billion Biden has already allocated in his “inflation reduction act”.
I doubt a mere trillion dollars would be the final green demand for money. These costs will be passed on to consumers, either via taxes or direct charges.