By guest contributor Ravi Mikkelsen, co-founder of Atmos Financial — financing the rapid transition to a clean economy for all.
The Biden administration is shaping up to be the strongest climate change-fighting administration this country has ever had. They’re proposing The American Jobs Plan (AJP), a $2T proposal to invest in our country’s infrastructure. Some in the climate community say the proposal doesn’t go far enough. But let us also remember that the best time to fight climate change is right now. A good plan executed now with urgency is better than a perfect plan that Congress likely will dither over and fail to pass.
So let’s have a look at a few things in the infrastructure bill for you climate entrepreneurs to get excited about:
The simple truth is that most of us work on or with infrastructure. At Atmos Financial, we are working to finance a shift in the infrastructure of our energy, housing, transportation and food. UtilityAPI needs the infrastructure of both the energy and telecom industries to provide the rest of us with the data we need to better serve our customers and accelerate their transition away from fossil fuels. Software to speed data sharing IS infrastructure.
Electric Vehicles (which are also… infrastructure!)
We’ve almost passed the inflection point in the transition from internal combustion engines (ICEs) to electric. Over the past decade, battery packs have dramatically come down in price, falling 88% since 2010. Cheaper batteries have brought down the price of EVs. And more and more people are interested in developing and driving electric vehicles.
Turns out, not only do EVs, e-bikes, cars, buses, trucks and other service vehicles move us and our goods around, they can serve as valuable energy backups for our homes and buildings. They also preserve grid resources though load shifting. The American Jobs Plan (AJP) will provide $174B to electrify the Federal fleet, electrify 20% of school buses and 50k diesel transit vehicles, as well as provide 500k public charging stations.
This is a fraction of what we need. However, if corporations and individual actors follow suit, it may be enough to drop an EV’s sticker price below ICE vehicles. The rolling computer-controlled battery packs we think of as EVs will produce exabytes of data. It’s true that they’ll need sophisticated software to make them as efficient as possible while controlling charging and discharging. But they’ll also not only leave our air cleaner as we move about in them, they could also help us avoid both blackouts and needing to build additional methods of generating energy.
Modernizing the electric grid through equity (yep, infrastructure!)
The electric grid is fundamental to our modern lives, giving us light, heat, transportation, and entertainment. But the process of deciding where to locate electric generating plants has been deeply racist. And the subsequent process of actually generating electricity has caused considerable harm, primarily to Black, low-income, and marginalized communities.
Widening our scope to the world at large: in the US, we’ve reaped the benefits of the combustion of fossil fuels, at the expense of the global South. Fossil fuel combustion is the primary driver of global warming, which is adversely affecting those countries more than ours as well.
In order to halt climate change, we need to take two main actions: 1) switch from fossil fuel electricity generation to zero carbon options and 2) electrify all of our machines.
The AJP includes $100B for modernizing our electrical grid including adding more high-voltage DC (HVDC) transmission lines. These lines will allow regions to better transfer electricity from where it's generated to where it's needed (eg CA solar to TX during the recent winter storm or TX wind & WA hydro to CA during the last wildfire season). In order to retire more fossil fuel plants more quickly and create the most renewable energy generation on the grid, we’ll again need powerful software to control the flow of electrons around the country.
Closing the digital divide: high-speed broadband is infrastructure (!)
While our energy runs increasingly over electrical lines (replacing fuel tanks and gas pipes), the data for these devices lags behind. It still runs through phone, cable, and fiber lines before being broadcast through a wireless router. Our entertainment, our work, and lately, even our schooling is also conducted over the internet.
The pandemic-influenced rapid switch to online everything has laid bare another stark contrast and inequality in this country. In order to participate fully in our modern economy, you need access to high-speed internet. Yet as many as 30M Americans still lack access, including 30% of rural areas, both tribal and non-tribal lands. In urban areas, Black and Latinx communities are less likely to be connected than those in majority white areas.
The AJP provides $100B to close this digital divide. It asks for 100% coverage for high-speed internet access, promotes transparency and competition and lowers the cost of internet service. The climate community should care about this for several reasons:
The time to care about infrastructure is now
Overall, the AJP is perhaps the single biggest plan for climate action put forward by the Federal government. But that’s not how the Biden administration is selling it. They’re resolutely talking about how infrastructure = jobs. Infrastructure and jobs are two of the most bipartisan topics we have. They help every community, which means each Senator and Congressional Representative can take credit for the benefits.
The AJP will help put people back to work, will drive down the costs for renewable energy and electrification, and will bring more people into the modern economy and education system. Let’s support it, and do our part to further accelerate the equitable transition to a planet that can support us all.
All blog posts are to help UtilityAPI users connect with their customers and successfully collect their utility data.