Jessica (left) and one of her interns celebrate National Drive Electric Week

Environment Georgia's new clean energy organizer on infrastructure and Middle GA

Last Wednesday, I drove across Middle Georgia promoting the transition to clean energy and celebrating National Drive Electric Week.

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Jessica Wahl
Clean Energy Associate

Author: Jessica Wahl

Clean Energy Associate

Started on staff: 2021
B.S., magna cum laude, Georgetown University

Jessica works with Congress and Georgia’s state legislature to promote clean energy policies, win 100% clean energy commitments in Georgia cities, and promote solar one roof at a time via solarize campaigns. Jessica originally hails from California and enjoys baking, learning new languages, and spending time in the great outdoors.

Meet Jessica!

I’m excited to introduce Jessica Wahl, Environment Georgia’s new Clean Energy Associate. Jessica recently graduated from Georgetown with a degree in Science, Technology and International Affairs and started with Environment Georgia in August. Since starting on staff she has helped to promote Environment Georgia-backed Solarize campaigns in Atlanta and Savannah that work to make solar cheaper and easier to install. She also, as she explains below, works locally and nationally to promote smart clean energy policies that will move us towards a 100% clean and renewable energy future. She is an excellent baker and enjoys learning new languages and exploring the great outdoors. Welcome, Jessica!

Jennette Gayer

Director, Environment Georgia

How federal legislation can help propel Middle Georgia into a clean energy future

Last Wednesday, I drove across Middle Georgia promoting the transition to clean energy and celebrating National Drive Electric Week. In Macon and Columbus, I stood alongside local university students on street corners and outside courthouses to wave colorful signs—“Honk if you love clean energy!”—and urge passersby to sign city-wide petitions for 100% renewables. We talked to students and grandmothers, posed for local reporters, and gathered signatures on wooden clipboards. 

If all goes well, these tactics will eventually inspire Macon and Columbus to join the five other cities in Georgia with 100% renewable energy commitments. To realize those commitments, we could use a little help from the federal government. Efforts to build a future in Middle Georgia that uses energy more efficiently, relies on clean and renewable energy sources like wind and solar, and get from place to place with electric, smog-free cars and trucks could get a major boost if Congress moves forward on two important pieces of legislation. 

The first is an Infrastructure Package that’s waiting for a vote in the House of Representatives. If passed into law, it would (among dozens of other provisions):

  • Provide $2.5 billion for electric school buses and trucks, helping our schools replace polluting vehicles with low- and zero-emission ones to improve our children’s health and reduce emissions. 

  • Dedicate $65 billion to upgrade our electrical grid. Rewiring America estimates that the electrification of Macon-Bibb County alone would save the average household $408 in bills annually, prevent 82,000 metric tons of CO2-equivalent emissions, and create 7,200 jobs. By repairing and modernizing our electricity infrastructure, the Infrastructure Bill would help us electrify efficiently and safely.

  • Invest $3.5 billion in the Weatherization Assistance Program. Weatherization—better protecting our homes and businesses from the elements and improving their energy efficiency—would reduce energy costs for more than 700,000 low-income American households.

The second piece of legislation that would help propel Middle Georgia into a clean energy future is the Build Back Better Budget (sometimes called the reconciliation bill). The details of this bill are still being debated, but some of the most important provisions that could help cities like Macon and Columbus transition to renewables include:

  • The Clean Electricity Payment Program, which would provide incentives for utilities to grow the amount of clean electricity they’re using annually by four percent—reducing emissions, protecting our health, and saving us money.

  • The reconciliation bill would extend and strengthen the federal solar Investment Tax Credit for a decade (through 2033) and create a direct pay option. Tax credits help offset the upfront cost of solar, and a direct pay option would open the door to solar credits and energy savings for homes, nonprofits and schools that don’t pay enough taxes to actually use the tax credit.

  • $5 billion for energy efficiency and conservation block grants would enable municipal and state governments to fund renewable energy and energy efficiency projects. Block grants are crucial because local governments are ineligible for tax credits, and many clean energy investments like solar have upfront costs that take years to pay for themselves. 

A strong infrastructure package and reconciliation at the federal level will help cities and towns like Macon and Columbus across the country enjoy cleaner air and water, lower utility bills, high-paying jobs, and a more secure future. That clean energy future is within reach; for decades, we have had the power to harness abundant clean energy from the sun and wind, and in 2021, it can be done more efficiently and cheaply than ever before. Yet we’re still producing, consuming and wasting energy in ways that do lasting damage to our environment and our health. Near Macon, for example, a giant coal plant is leaking toxins from onsite coal ash ponds into nearby drinking water wells while our state’s incredible solar potential goes untapped.

They say to think globally, act locally. In Middle Georgia, we’re acting locally (starting with clipboards and petition sheets on 2nd Street in Macon) as well as at the state and national levels to work toward a global vision of a greener, healthier world powered by clean energy. This week, we need the federal government to act with us. The infrastructure and reconciliation bills are a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. So let’s get it done.

Jessica Wahl
Clean Energy Associate

Author: Jessica Wahl

Clean Energy Associate

Started on staff: 2021
B.S., magna cum laude, Georgetown University

Jessica works with Congress and Georgia’s state legislature to promote clean energy policies, win 100% clean energy commitments in Georgia cities, and promote solar one roof at a time via solarize campaigns. Jessica originally hails from California and enjoys baking, learning new languages, and spending time in the great outdoors.