U.S. Clean Power Giants to Join Forces to Build Lobbying Muscle

By Brian Eckhouse
September 3rd, 2020

(Bloomberg) -- Some of the biggest U.S. clean-energy companies are joining forces with the nation’s top wind-power trade group to create a new lobbying organization ahead of a presidential election that could tip federal policy in favor of renewables.
The new group, called the American Clean Power Association, will include industry titans such as NextEra Energy Inc., Avangrid Inc. and Berkshire Hathaway Energy. The American Wind Energy Association, founded in 1974, plans to merge with the new organization with the goal of propelling “renewables to be the dominant power source in America,” it said in a letter to its members Thursday.

The November election will be pivotal for the energy industry. While President Donald Trump has vowed to protect oil and gas jobs, Democratic nominee Joe Biden aims to accelerate the country’s transition to clean energy with a $2 trillion plan that seeks to eliminate carbon emissions from the power sector by 2035 -- a prospect that would require an unprecedented building boom of solar panels, wind turbines and batteries. At the same time, the renewables industry is facing a large capital shortfall amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“Coming in with a unified voice and a better-coordinated voice helps give a clear message,” said Susan Nickey, a managing director at Hannon Armstrong Sustainable Infrastructure Capital Inc. and the treasurer of the wind association’s board.

Clean power has a much smaller footprint in Washington than their counterparts in the fossil-fuel sector. The renewables industry spent less than $18 million on lobbying in 2019, compared with more than $104 million spent by oil, gas and coal, according to Bloomberg government data. This year, lobbying spending by clean energy firms is about one-fifth of that of the fossil-fuel industry.

The new group’s priorities will include environmental policy, market reform and grid modernization. More than 30 companies -- including utilities, developers, manufacturers and financial entities -- participated in discussions this year about the new association, according to the AWEA letter.

Read More: Green Electric Grid Will Dramatically Speed Up Climate Action The Solar Energy Industries Association -- the sector’s biggest trade group -- will remain a standalone group. But it will work with the new organization and has “identified several areas” where they can collaborate, including climate and trade policy as well as inclusion and justice issues, said Dan Whitten, a spokesman for the solar group.

--With assistance from Ari Natter.