Biden boosts green ambitions among private sector

US President Joe Biden has wasted no time in making climate change a top priority. The world's second-largest producer of carbon emissions could finally turn green potential into tangible results. Promising signs are already afoot in the private sector as companies spy opportunity.

Just days after taking office, Biden signed an executive order to position climate change at the center of US domestic and foreign policy. He signed another to rejoin the Paris climate accord, which seeks to limit the global temperature rise to less than 1.5 degrees Celsius of pre-industrial levels, and also revoked permits for the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada.

The president's special envoy for climate, John Kerry, recently travelled to Europe seeking more cooperation ahead of a US-initiated leaders' summit on the issue next month.

John Kerry and Joe Biden
John Kerry says the current goals set out under the Paris climate accord fall short of what's needed to address global warming.

The Department of Energy has $40 billion to offer in loans and loan guarantees to clean-energy start-ups. Most of the funds were left unused under the previous administration.

Decarbonizing the West

Advocates hope more companies will follow the example of firms like Intermountain Power Agency in Utah. The utility plans to transition away from coal. It will produce hydrogen from renewables such as wind and solar and store it in giant underground salt caverns. Officials describe it as the world's largest project of its kind. IPA aims to start supplying clean energy in 2025.

IPA spokesperson John Ward says hydrogen can be produced in the spring and fall and harnessed like batteries for use in winter and summer, when people need more power to stay warm or cool.

The IPA turbines that produce hydrogen-based electricity will be developed by Japanese firm Mitsubishi Power.

Paul Browning, the president of Mitsubishi Power Americas, says the project could eventually cover a much larger swath of the country. "Our ambition is to decarbonize the electric power grid for the entire western United States. And there's going to be a lot more activity happening in Utah and a lot more jobs created over the next decade."

Browning points out that some states, including California, are well ahead of Washington's federal agencies in the push for green electricity. He is hopeful that Biden will provide an extra boost by offering investment tax credits to accelerate the transition to a hydrogen economy.

Utah Project
Intermountain Power Agency spokesperson John Ward says the utility expects to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 75 percent when its new plant opens in 2025.

Japanese firm targets sales growth

Biden's promise to make millions of buildings and homes more energy efficient has caught the attention of window manufacturer YKK AP. The Japanese firm, which gained a foothold in Georgia after entering the US market in 1988, has already been producing windows for zero-emission buildings for more than a decade. The firm is upgrading its lineup to meet tighter environmental criteria that is expected to be set at the federal level.

"We have many green products in Japan, and I want my staff in the US to use that technology to beat the competition at research and development," says YKK AP President Hori Hidemitsu. "I have a feeling we can more than double our sales of environmental products over the next four years." Hori also says the company is even considering building another factory on US soil.

Hori Hidemitsu
YKK AP President Hori Hidemitsu says he recognizes potential in the US market for green buildings.

Biden is in a strong position to push ahead with his plans, with Democrats controlling both chambers of Congress. Many Republican lawmakers are opposed to climate action policy. Enthusiasm from the private sector will be music to the president's ears, especially considering his promise to create 10 million clean-energy jobs.

On a global scale, other countries are likely to follow suit after seeing the world's biggest economy start to take real action.

YKK AP is preparing to offer a wider range of energy-efficient products for the US market.
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