Scott Pruitt favors a major overhaul of the Environmental Protection Agency to create a regulatory environment that is friendlier to business. But if helping business is the goal, Secretary Pruitt should re-examine his agency’s excellent track record partnering with and supporting businesses, before defunding programs critical to their success.
A voluntary program that supports business
The EPA’s Green Power Partnership is one of several voluntary programs slated for elimination as part of the proposed unprecedented 31% roll-back in EPA funding. Launched by the Bush administration in 2001, the program has helped more than 1400 participants – Fortune 500 companies, small businesses, universities, municipalities, and other entities – achieve their clean energy goals. The program provides technical assistance to companies as they evaluate green power opportunities in the marketplace. It then rewards their leadership through public recognition of their voluntary procurement efforts.
By eliminating market barriers, the program enables forward-looking companies like Intel, Starbucks and Cisco to invest in smart solutions that reduce climate pollution and satisfy stakeholder demands for greater civic responsibility. For example, Starbucks accounts for 100% of its total electricity use – 970 million kWh annually – through green power generation and purchases. Altogether, participants in the Green Power Program use more than 36 billion kWh of green power annually, enough to power 3 million average US homes.
The Green Power Partnership: a successful model
The Green Power Partnership is a highly successful model for encouraging voluntary climate action that should be preserved, especially now that the administration seems determined to eliminate fossil fuel regulations and other climate protections. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory reports that voluntary purchases of clean energy account for more than 25% of total US non-hydropower renewable generation. The voluntary green power sector is a vital component of the clean energy industry, which is driving investment and job growth across the country at unprecedented rates. According to the US Department of Energy, clean energy investment in the US reached $45 billion by 2015. By 2016, solar job growth was 17 times faster than overall job creation. An administration that supports employment and economic growth should actively encourage corporations to leverage their size and buying power to accelerate clean energy development.
Eliminating the Green Power Partnership and other voluntary programs like Energy Star and Combined Heat and Power, would clearly signal the administration’s intent to thwart the rapid transition to clean energy. In this case, the administration would be wildly out-of-step with the business interests it purports to serve.
The Green Power Partnership includes many of the nation’s most profitable enterprises, largest employers, and most trusted brands. They understand that business can profit while safeguarding the planet for future generations.
We can expect these companies to continue to lead on climate, but they need the help of federal agencies to provide data and technical support, sound science and public policy. Partnership is a two-way street. The private sector has shown its willingness to rise to the challenge of climate change. It is now time for the Trump administration to do its part.