A blog by Stacey Kusters, Cubico Country Head for the United States of America

In 2023, the renewable energy sector encountered notable hurdles worldwide, and the United States felt the impact keenly. Disruptions in the supply chain, along with rises in interest rates, introduced turmoil, leading to project delays and stunting growth rates. However, having worked in the US energy sector for over 30 years – navigating various market fluctuations and witnessing the transformative power of clean energy firsthand, I am confident in the immense potential that lies ahead.

Green shoots of recovery

Despite recent setbacks, the renewable energy sector in the US continues to show promise. Solar and wind power are projected to contribute 17% of US electricity generation in 2024, a steady increase from 15% in the previous year. Over the medium term, between 2023 and 2028, the nation is expected to add a staggering 340 GW of new renewable capacity, with solar emerging as a primary driver of growth[1].

With much of the funding from the Inflation Reduction Act’s $27 billion Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund due to begin flowing in 2024[2], it’s likely we will see momentum once again injected into the sector, facilitating financing for new projects and stimulating growth.

States and corporates forging ahead

Individual states across aren’t waiting for federal directives and are forging ahead with their clean energy ambitions. Both Michigan and Minnesota adopted 100% clean electricity standards during 2023, joining states such as California and New York in passing ambitious permitting reforms intended to make it easier to develop and build clean energy infrastructure.

Corporate America is also stepping up, with an increasing number of Fortune 500 companies committing to net-zero targets by 2030. Virtual Power Purchase Agreements (VPPAs) and Contract for Differences (CfD) are playing an increasingly large role, enabling companies to directly purchase clean energy from producers, fuelling renewable energy infrastructure growth.

I’ve personally seen the significant impact of our partnerships with corporations like Google and Amazon, where offtake agreements are fueling renewable energy infrastructure growth and enabling huge, energy-intensive corporations to reduce their carbon emissions meet their net zero goals.

Accelerating Grid Connections

Whilst grid interconnections and queue reform have become a major barrier to clean energy growth in recent years, there’s reason for optimism. The recent actions taken by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), particularly through Order No. 2023, mark a pivotal shift in our approach. Moving away from the antiquated “first-come, first-served” model to a more efficient “first-ready, first-served” process is a game-changer.

These reforms aren’t just bureaucratic manoeuvres; they’re catalysts for real change. By streamlining interconnection wait times, particularly for renewable projects, FERC is paving the way for accelerated clean energy growth.

From my perspective, this means strategic project development will become more crucial than ever. In a landscape where grid connection slots are limited, companies with the ability to identify optimal projects in favourable locations and swiftly deploy capital will be best placed to stay ahead of the curve.

Having navigated the complexities of the renewable energy sector for decades, I’m excited about the opportunities these reforms present. They underscore the importance of adaptability and foresight in an ever-evolving industry.

A Bright Future

We all care deeply about the environment, and it is heartening to see the momentum building behind solar, wind and battery projects in the United States. The recent infusion of capital by the IRA into these markets is not just about dollars and cents; it’s about paving the way for a cleaner, greener future.

There will be challenges along the way. But at Cubico, we thrive on challenges. We see them as opportunities to innovate and make a real difference. With our unwavering commitment to facilitating the growth of America’s clean energy sector, we’re not just building a business; we’re building a brighter, cleaner future for generations to come. Together, with the right skills, capabilities, and determination, we can turn these challenges into triumphs and pave the way for a truly sustainable tomorrow.

[1] International Energy Agency. “Executive Summary.” Renewables 2023, International Energy Agency, 2023, www.iea.org/reports/renewables-2023/executive-summary.

[2] CleanEnergy.gov. (2023, January). Building a clean energy economy: A guidebook to the Inflation Reduction Act’s investments in clean energy and climate action. https://cleanenergy.gov