Recap: Accelerating the Energy Transition at CLEANPOWER 2021

The CLEANPOWER 2021 Virtual Summit set the perfect stage to shine a spotlight on the industry. We heard from industry leaders and disruptors, stakeholders and innovators, lawmakers and allies to who shared insights and issued a call to action to drive forward the country’s transition to a majority clean power future. No matter your role in the industry, there was something for everyone at CLEANPOWER. Attendees joined us from across the nation, and even the globe, to hear from political leaders, subject matter experts and industry VIPs as we sit poised for an energy revolution. The conference theme, “Accelerating the Energy Transition,” united the week around the major idea that renewable energy is a term of the past. Renewable energy is just energy, and it’s ready to power the future.

Reflecting on the entire speaker line-up, it’s amazing to see the wide variety and amount of collective expertise ACP brought together. Thank you to all speakers and panelists for taking time out of their schedules to share their knowledge and insights, and to our sponsors and partners for helping make the event a success. Over the course of four jam-packed days, we heard insights on the future of every facet of the industry, from federal policy, to trade, transmission and even tax reform.

Daily Session Highlights

Day 1:
Starting big, we kicked off Day 1 with a conversation between Heather Zichal, ACP’s CEO, and Gina McCarthy, White House National Climate Advisor. Gina and Heather had a productive conversation that ended with a great promise from Gina, “You guys are great. I really appreciate you, and make sure you’re letting us know when you’re running into roadblocks, and we can all work together make the world a place that we’re very proud to hand to our children.” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer echoed that sentiment saying, “Now is the time to go big and bold.” After those encouraging words, we took a step back to examine how ACP came to be, and what that means for us as an organization and for our members going forward. For ACP founding members, it was clear that this new multi-tech trade organization was one way to answer the calls to action we’d heard over the last few years for a powerful voice a unified clean power sector. In the afternoon, we looked ahead as an industry again, asking the question, “Now that we’re united, how can we answer the call to make the transition to 100% clean power by 2035?” ACP’s Vice President of Research and Analytics John Hensley, and a panel of policy and research experts agreed; we need timely, decisive action and use multiple tactics, from tax credits to clean electricity standards, to make it happen.

View the recap of Day 1 here.


Day 2: 
The second day of the conference brought even more big names in clean energy, and took a deep dive into policy, hybrid projects and trade. The United States’ first Presidential Envoy for Climate and former Secretary of State, John Kerry, started the day off with an urgent message, “The question is not whether we get to a net-zero economy, the question is whether we get there in time.” As the American Clean Power Association, we have the opportunity, the capability, and the potential to make that happen.

Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA) highlighted ways we could make the transition in her remarks, noting that “common sense” solutions will help get us there.

A panel of industry leaders following those political remarks continued to explore the ways we can transition from “clean power” to “power” and ensure we’re also taking care our workforce throughout that transition. But there’s more to the future of the industry than just policy. On Tuesday afternoon, we looked into equally important topics including hybrid projects and trade, because in order to make the transition we all strive for, every facet of the industry has to be working at it’s best.

View the recap for Day 2 here.


Day 3:
Day three of the CLEANPOWER Virtual Summit continued to bring the heat. Heather Zichal spoke with U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), and Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) in the morning. With her energy and optimism, Secretary Granholm’s remarks were a highlight of mine as she emphasized the American can-do spirit, and our huge potential for a well-rounded, life-changing clean energy transformation and its ability to create jobs, cleaner air and a healthy economy. Speaker Pelosi noted ACP’s importance in that transformation, saying ACP’s work is “vital” in creating the “clean energy economy of the future.”  Senator Wyden, who’s recently proposed legislation would champion clean energy in the Senate, called for tax reform to help make this happen. On Wednesday morning we also began part 1 of our U.S. Offshore Wind Developer Interview Series, which brought together all the leading names in offshore wind in the U.S. and examined how offshore wind can help us achieve our clean energy future. We heard from Anne Finucane, Bank of American Vice Chairman, who explained Bank of America’s huge investment in climate, and highlighted the cascading positive climate impacts their investments could have. The day concluded with two technical sessions on the Tax Equity Market and Grid Enhancing Technologies, two more topics crucial to the success of the energy transition.

View a recap of Day 3 here.

Day 4:
The final day of CLEANPOWER was just as exciting as the first. Andrew Steer, President and CEO of the Bezos Earth Fund, shared his goal of making “this decisive decade truly transformational.” Steer also noted that what America does, the rest of the world follows, highlighting the exciting impact that we as the American clean power industry can have on our collective future. Following those inspirational remarks, and perhaps reminding ourselves of the weight of that position, we examined the aftermath of the events in Texas from winter storm Uri.  Brad Jones, interim President and CEO of ERCOT, Carrie Bivens, Independent Market Monitor Director at ERCOT and a panel of industry experts explored how we as an industry can learn and move forward. We were joined for a lunchtime keynote by FERC chairman Richard Glick who commended, “ACP is off to an excellent start. I think it’s about time we put together all of the different renewable technologies…and everything I’ve seen from ACP has been top notch so far.” An encouraging sentiment from such an important person in the energy world.

The day and the sessions for the summit concluded with two more panel discussions: the second part of the U.S. Offshore Wind Developer Interview Series and “A Transmission Renaissance in the West”, again calling on authorities in the industry to share their expertise on topics crucial to creating the infrastructure necessary to continue the energy revolution.

View the final daily recap here.

Looking back on it now, there were a few major themes throughout the 2021 CLEANPOWER Virtual Summit, but to me the most exciting is that everyone agrees on one thing: the clean energy revolution is here. We are poised on the precipice of the future of energy in the United States, and we are the ones making it happen. By next year’s conference, “renewable energy” will be just “energy,” and we’ll be well on our way to President Biden’s goal of a net-zero economy by 2050, thanks to the innovation, drive and unity of the industry exemplified at CLEANPOWER this week.

Connections at CLEANPOWER 
Following each panel session, we hosted Topical Discussion Lounges to give participants the opportunities to connect with their peers and presenters. In these smaller group settings, attendees were able to debate solutions to problems, explore hypotheticals and make lasting connections on the topics that interested them most. We also hosted morning Coffee Break Connects for more casual conversation based on personal interests and hobbies.

Although the live sessions may have been the focus of the week, attendees had access to so much more at the CLEANPOWER Virtual Summit including over 70 on-demand sessions, 25 poster presentations, and the opportunity to use the event matchmaking tool that offered attendees the opportunity to be paired with the most promising and relevant leads in attendance based on personalized goals. If you didn’t participate, you can still register for CLEANPOWER in Salt Lake City this December to gain access starting now through the end of the year. Recordings of the live streams sessions will also be available to those registered for the all-access pass.

Future Leaders 
As the clean power industry grows, it’s crucial that we make clean energy jobs appealing and exciting for new entrants into the workforce at all levels. That’s why we host CLEANPOWER in conjunction with the DOE Collegiate Wind Competition and why we give free access to the virtual event any full-time high school or college student that registers. After all, there’s a place in clean energy for everyone.

Join us in December
It’s finally here! We are coming together in person this December 7-8 in Salt Lake City, Utah for the first annual CLEANPOWER exhibition. While it wasn’t as early as we hoped, joining together again in December will give us an opportunity to reflect on the second half of 2021 and prepare for 2022. If you purchased an all-access pass, we can’t wait to see you there! If not, it’s not too late to register! We’ve also recently opened the exhibition floorplan for booking and have in-person sponsorships still available. Recognition begins at the moment of your commitment so commit early! In the meantime, check out ACP’s upcoming events including a member-exclusive webinar on our recently released labor report.

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