• December 15, 2021

    Public-Private Partnerships Offer a Key Ingredient to Climate Progress

    Chuck Chaitovitz

Building smart, modern, resilient infrastructure has long been a top priority at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. That’s why the Chamber worked so hard to ensure enactment of the bipartisan Infrastructure and Investment Jobs Act.

One of the exciting—and perhaps underappreciated—components of the new bill is a historic $100 billion investment in climate and energy innovation to reduce and remove GHG emissions.

That’s the largest investment the federal government has ever made in this area. 

With these opportunities looming, it’s important to examine the ways that new resources can be leveraged. One major avenue is to link public and private resources to help remove barriers to entry and assist with project and program financing to address our climate and infrastructure needs. 

While public-private partnerships have been used to advance local infrastructure needs for decades, they have only recently become a tool for addressing environmental goals.

There is a great deal of reference material indicating that policymakers and local and state government leaders have often struggled to develop and sustain the political will to partner with companies in this way. P3s are more than a contracting or concessionary financing. Keys to success often are based on the relationships among the public and private organizations and can assist in transforming the capabilities to deliver more value to communities and ensure more effective project financing and implementation.

To take a closer look at these opportunities, the Chamber and the National Association of Counties co-convened a New York Climate Week event in September entitled “Advancing Climate Action Through Public-Private Partnerships.” The recording can be viewed here.

The event featured the following speakers:

  • Rep. Scott Peters (D-CA-52)
  • Jeannie Salo, Vice President, Government Relations, Schneider Electric
  • Christopher Brown, Montgomery County, Maryland
  • Rusty Bell, Campbell County, Wyoming
  • Juan Macias, CEO, AlphaStruxure 

A few examples shared during the event include:

Wyoming Innovation Center (WyIC). Energy Capital Economic Development, a private nonprofit economic development organization has partnered with Campbell County, the City of Gillette, the University of Wyoming School of Energy Resources, the Economic Development Administration, and the State of Wyoming in building the Wyoming Innovation Center. The WyIC, which is currently under construction, is a facility designed to scale up lab-level research in manufacturing products where coal is the primary raw material. The WyIC will provide the support to determine the commercial potential of these products and provide a path to commercial success.

Fleet electrification. Successful fleet electrification requires an integrated infrastructure solution—one that accounts for electric buses themselves, routing, charging infrastructure, charging and energy management software, and distributed energy resources. Montgomery County, Maryland has partnered with the team at AlphaStruxure, a Schneider Electric and Carlyle Group joint venture Energy as a Service company, to deploy an integrated, resilient microgrid and electric bus charging infrastructure system that enables the transition of 44 diesel to electric buses. This innovative project will alleviate pressure on the grid, optimize energy costs, and deliver sustainable and reliable transit operations.

The Brookville Smart Energy Bus Depot will deliver dramatic sustainability benefits, reducing emissions by an estimated 62 percent. The project will eliminate 155,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions over its lifetime and enable transit service continuity in the event of extreme weather and power outages, so County residents can still get to work, schools, and hospitals in the region.

Our climate priorities require that we use all the tools in our toolbox to reduce emissions, and mobilizing private capital and catalyzing public-private collaboration should be included in the mix.

EPA has established a network of Environmental Finance Centers designed to develop innovative finance solutions, including public-private partnerships. The Chamber looks for forward to working with our partners to promote commonsense policies to make this happen.