Election Impact: Preparing for 2019

While we’re still waiting for the final vote tallies in 10 House districts across the country and gubernatorial and senate races in the southeast, I want to give a couple of quick insights and sign posts given the results of the midterms both at the federal level and in the states to start watching for new opportunities.

The immediate takeaway is that, with Trump still in office and determined to keep backing fossil fuels and undoing EPA rules, and Republicans in the Senate following his lead, no major clean energy legislation is going to pass over the next two years. However, with the Democrats controlling the House, they do have some significant leverage on a critical area of legislation: the power of the purse.

No matter what the purpose of the bill may be, any legislation that requires fiscal expenditures must be initiated by the House of Representatives. And that means government affairs and leadership teams need to start paying close attention to the people and schedules of the subcommittees of the House Appropriations Committee – specifically the subcommittees for Commerce, Justice, Science; Energy and Water Development; Interior and Environment; and Transportation, Housing and Urban Development. If you are looking to start educating and influencing the new House Democrats for policies they are developing, get to know the new members of the House Energy & Commerce Committee. And pay attention to who gets appointed to the renewed Select Committee on Climate Change that Leader Pelosi has committed to re-establishing come January.

But, as usual in energy policy, it’s the states where all the interesting things happen. While there are lots of interesting issues being dealt with in all the states (seriously, start paying attention to Kentucky, Indiana, and Tennessee for new solar growth), the big takeaway from last Tuesday is the eight gubernatorial candidates who ran and won on an 80-100% renewable energy platform. These are: Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, and Oregon.

How each of these Governor-elects will approach this goal is going to be as diverse as their states, but increasing investment in EV infrastructure, clearing obstacles for more distributed energy (specifically rooftop solar), and appointing PUC/PSC commissioners focused on grid modernization are likely places to start. Steve Sisolak and his new Democratic trifecta could make the need for a second passage of the RPS increase ballot measure obsolete in Nevada by legislating it in his first 100 days. Jared Polis is focused on returning Colorado to its leadership position in renewable energy growth and his 100% RE victory takes a lot of wind out of the coal lobby’s sails. And if you are in the AI/tech space, keep a close on on Michigan – Gretchen Witmer is determined to make her state a central hub for autonomous vehicle development to draw more high tech jobs into the core automotive manufacturing sector it’s known for.

Former Vice President Joe Biden would use a common refrain when talking about policy and governance: “Show me you budget and I’ll show you your priorities.” Just as at the federal level, campaign platforms and policy statements are a good start, but it’s the state budgets that indicate real support and drive for change. As you start planning new market strategies, always follow the money.

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