Asaf Nagler, Senior Director, Government Relations, ABB Inc.
In 2010, solar power was just 4 percent of new electric generating capacity and there was a patchwork of state solar policies and renewable portfolio standards. At the end of 2020, that number had risen to 43 percent of new generating capacity and utility scale solar became cheaper than coal, nuclear power, and natural gas—saving taxpayers money, creating nearly a quarter of a million new jobs, and reducing harmful emissions.
These dramatic changes did not happen in a vacuum. The technological advances and dramatic drop in cost would not have been possible without robust federal, state, and local policies and investments. The 2009 U.S. American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (Recovery Act) catalyzed the solar transition across the country by investing in solar research, development, and demonstration projects, in addition to creating tax grants and incentives; states ramped up renewable and solar deployment targets; localities began issuing new rules for rooftop solar; while utilities created new interconnection protocols and public utility commissions issued new rate structures and approved investments in solar generation.
Today, we are at a similar inflection point with the transportation sector. In the US, battery electric vehicles represent about 2.5 percent of new sales for light duty vehicles and many forecast that EVs will be at least 30 percent of new sales by 2030; about the same 10-year time frame for similar market growth we experienced with solar.
The e-mobility economy is coming; and, like we experienced with solar, it will lower costs for taxpayers, create new careers, and mitigate the costs of climate change. Currently, there are a number of good-intentioned policy proposals in Washington, state capitols, and local and municipal governments to grow the economy and create new e-mobility jobs. However, to be a powerful engine of US economic growth this patchwork of disparate efforts must coalesce. Federal legislation and leadership can be the catalyst of the e-mobility economy.
The Biden Administration’s American Jobs Plan and a number of bills in Congress hit many of the right notes for launching the e-mobility economy. Smart policy actions currently being considered include:
- 1) foundational investments in research, development, and deployment of vehicles and charging;
- 2) policies that drive demand like updating and extending tax credits for vehicles and charging infrastructure;
- 3) supporting the growth of domestic manufacturing for electric vehicles, chargers, and batteries by revitalizing investment tax credits and loan guarantee programs; and
- 4) setting zero emission vehicle (ZEV) deployment targets and converting the federal fleet to electric.
Like the Recovery Act did for the solar industry, concerted federal action will jumpstart state and local actions too, empowering states and municipalities to pass ambitious e-mobility plans. Some smart policies include, setting ZEV targets for cars, trucks, and medium and heavy-duty vehicles, streamlining permitting processes for EV charging stations, passing EV charger-friendly building codes, and incentivizing multi-unit dwellings and rural communities to install charging infrastructure.
With leadership from Washington, a comprehensive EV policy playbook will supercharge the e-mobility economy and unlock its benefits for all Americans. While some states and cities aren’t waiting around for Washington, without catalyzing national leadership, the e-mobility economy will not propel forward. Instead, it will putter along with a patchwork of uneven impacts. Federal policy and investments launched a lower cost, job creating, zero emissions solar energy sector, we can do the same for the transportation sector and lock in US leadership in the coming e-mobility economy.
 Solar Energy Industries Association, “Solar Market Insight Report, 2020 Year in Review”, March 16, 2021. Available at:www.seia.org/research-resources/solar-market-insight-report-2020-year-review. Accessed on June 4, 2021.
 Lazard, “Lazard’s Levelized Cost of Energy Analysis—Version 14,” October 2020. Available At: www.lazard.com/media/451419/lazards-levelized-cost-of-energy-version-140.pdf. Accessed on June 4, 2021.
 Cox Automotive & Kelly Blue Book, “Electrified Vehicle Growth Energized in Q1,” April 15, 2021. Available at: www.coxautoinc.com/market-insights/electrified-vehicle-growth-energized-in-q1/. Accessed on June 4, 2021.
 BNEF, “Electric Vehicle Outlook 2020,” 2020. Available at: www.about.bnef.com/electric-vehicle-outlook/. Accessed on June 4, 2021.