How Public-Private Partnerships Can Advance Climate Action
Private-public partnerships are essential for the U.S. to meet its climate action objectives and improve the nation’s energy management.
Air Date: September 23, 2021
Moderator: Chuck Chaitovitz, Vice President, Environmental Affairs and Sustainability, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Christopher Guith, Senior Vice President, Policy, U.S. Chamber Global Energy Institute, Jeannie Salo, VP, Government Relation, Schneider Electric
Featured Guests: Scott Peters, U.S. Representative, California, Rusty Bell, Commissioner, Campbell County, Wyoming, Christopher Brown, Chief, Office of Energy and Sustainability, Montgomery County, Maryland, Juan Macias, CEO, AlphaStruxure
Addressing the impact of climate change and innovating new ways to reduce our carbon footprint has been at the forefront of many public and private sector efforts. In fact, the most recent bipartisan infrastructure package currently being considered by Congress contains more than $100 billion to help mitigate climate and energy innovation to reduce and remove greenhouse gas emissions. If passed, this legislation would be the highest federal investment towards climate action in history.
To further the work in the climate space, public-private partnerships must align their priorities to materialize concepts and solidify best practices. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Counties (NACo) spoke with business owners and local government leaders on how private-public partnerships (3Ps) are being used to advance energy management and meet climate action objectives.
Communication Empowers Buy-In For Climate Action
Rusty Bell, the commissioner for Campbell County, Wyoming, emphasized just how important it is to keep an open line of communication with the community to encourage private buy-ins for climate action at the local government level.
“[We ask] how can we help with the tools that we have in place for economic development,” he explained. “And then if we don't have those tools in place, how can we go to the next level to help them get what they need to be a successful business in our community?”
Bell noted the current conversations surrounding Campbell County’s local business efforts to combat climate change are being heavily influenced by building strong relationships.
“For us, it’s getting information, having that communication with them, so that they can have buy-in,” he explained.
“[The] coal-reliant community and … the local government can actually have a conversation about having new businesses that are carbon negative or carbon-neutral,” he continued. “Not only are we producing a lot of energy in different ways, but we're also trying to do our part and follow the market.”
Maryland's Electric Busing Initiatives Demonstrate ‘3P’ in Action
An example of a 3P in action is the partnership between Montgomery County and AlphaStruxure to support Maryland’s electric busing initiatives. Christopher Brown, chief of the Office of Energy and Sustainability in Montgomery County, Maryland, and Juan Macias, CEO of AlphaStruxure, both spoke about the first “Energy as a Service” infrastructure project.
“We have three bus depots, 300-plus buses, and 75 routes serving a population of approximately one million people,” Brown explained. “With the use of a [3P], we were able to pursue a complex microgrid [as well as] the mobilization of private capital.”
“It really helps mobilize those tax credits and other initiatives from renewable energy projects that as a municipality, we cannot otherwise do,” Brown said of the benefits of the partnership. “Then we're also able to partner with the deep expertise in the field of energy … and ensure not only do we have an effective design, but we can operate and always have the equipment up and ready to run when we need it. What's unique about this is partnering with the county and all the various agencies and team members [is conceptualizing] how this transition is being made, what all the different elements of this are, and having … an integrated approach of how we iterated this technical design.”
The Private Sector Can Assist Energy Transitions
Macias explained that private entities must be involved in the so-called “energy transitions” that are leading climate action, such as transportation efforts to switch from diesel to zero emissions.
“These transitions … are complex,” said Macias. “So I think the private sector can and should be a partner to the different jurisdictions and entities and planning such transitions, thinking of innovative ways, both from technology [and] business models … in order to be able to facilitate and accelerate this transition.”
“Decarbonizing the grid is not one solution, it’s going to be a multitude of solutions," Macias continued. "I think the private sector can play a role, not only in executing energy to service and public-private partnerships, but I think it has to play a role in terms of technical innovation and being able to be in a partnership … to conceptualize, plan, and execute these complex transitions.”