You’d be right to cheer the fact that efficiency- and sustainability-focused efforts continue on an accelerating path in cities from Austin to Vancouver, Brighton to Yokohama. That the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says we could generate nearly 80 per cent of the energy we need from renewable sources by 2050. That interest and investment in smart-grid improvements has grown so rapidly in the past few years. Chalk up some seriously encouraging achievements in the “Give” column.
But then there’s the “Take” side of the equation, and things there don’t look so good. In the US, Senate Republicans are floating a plan to merge the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency, a move certain to critically weaken both agencies. Budget cuts have forced the US Energy Information Administration to basically whittle down its energy data to the equivalent of few Twitter posts. Assaults on energy and the environment are being launched at the state level as well, from Florida to Wisconsin and beyond.
Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, the UK government’s once-stated pledge to be the “greenest ever” looks set to crumple like a Trabant in a slow-motion collision with a truck. Its aggressive climate targets appear to be headed for the chopping block. Hopes are also being dashed for an adequately funded green investment bank and generous small-scale renewable-energy incentives.
These and similar developments have serious implications for the clean-energy/smart-grid business sector. The types of infrastructure improvements this sector is aiming for aren’t paid for and deployed in a vacuum: more often than not, they’re taking place because somewhere, at some point, policies were put in place that either mandated such projects or made them economically sensible for utilities and other stakeholders. Kill or quietly “disappear” those policies one by one, and you can kiss goodbye to the promise of a smarter, more efficient energy future.