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Our Work

Clean Energy Infrastructure Deployment

Managing climate change is in large part an infrastructure challenge.

CATF is working to ensure that a diverse array of clean energy infrastructure is built in a fair and equitable manner at the pace and scale required to meet growing global energy demand and achieve climate goals.

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Why it matters

To avert the worst impacts of climate change, we must build renewable energy resources, electricity transmission lines, and infrastructure for technologies like carbon capture, hydrogen, advanced nuclear, and long duration energy storage quicker and at larger scale than ever before. Yet growing evidence suggests a complex mix of social, institutional, and land-use barriers is slowing the deployment of these important climate solutions.

Our goals are to:

  • Identify barriers to deploying clean energy and supporting infrastructure
  • Advance policy, regulatory, and business solutions to overcome them
  • Generate political support for clean energy infrastructure deployment

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Our Goal

Overcome growing barriers to clean energy infrastructure deployment

Demand for clean energy has reached unprecedented levels and technology costs continue to decrease, yet the time and resource costs of clean energy infrastructure deployment continue to rise, slowing the rate of deployment and increasing the risk of falling significantly short of climate goals.

CATF is engaging local, regional, and national stakeholders to understand and address barriers to clean energy infrastructure deployment including siting challenges, competition for land resources, and inefficient planning and permitting processes. Once identified, we’re advancing paradigm-shifting policy, political, and business solutions to overcome those barriers.

Our impact on clean energy
infrastructure deployment

Scope of Work

  • Policy development and advocacy: CATF develops and advocates for policies, regulations, and incentives that support fair and equitable clean energy infrastructure deployment at the necessary scale and pace.
  • Thought leadership: CATF identifies solutions that go beyond the current policy debates and advances them by building coalitions, developing evidence-based advocacy strategies, and sharing best practices with the broader NGO and advocacy community.
  • Research and analysis: CATF evaluates the underlying drivers of insufficiently slow clean energy deployment, researches solutions that have been implemented the world over, and analyzes new and innovative solutions to these deployment challenges.
  • Place-based engagement: CATF works with stakeholders in states, regions, and nations worldwide to facilitate the deployment of clean energy infrastructure, transferring insights across the geographic landscapes in which we work.

CATF has initially focused its clean energy infrastructure work in the United States, with extensive ongoing work at the federal level and in California, with additional engagements in Colorado and New England, along with a growing portfolio in Europe.

Challenges

Growing barriers to clean energy infrastructure deployment. The rate of clean energy deployment is slowing when it should be rapidly increasing, despite the urgent imperative to address climate change and increased ambition by major stakeholders. Across globally diverse political systems, institutions, and cultural practices, clean energy projects face similar, complex social, institutional, and land-use barriers. These barriers include public opposition to technologies and siting, competition for limited land resources, inefficient planning and permitting processes, precarious supply chains, too few skilled workers, and limited access to capital. Historically, these non-technological barriers have been understudied and underemphasized by academics, policymakers, and clean energy developers.

The advocacy narrative is dominated by incremental thinking and status quo approaches. The scale, pace, and diversity of necessary clean energy infrastructure deployment requires a wholesale reimagining of existing planning, permitting, siting, and community engagement practices, and the role of governments in managing the clean energy transition. Project-by-project, bottom-up approaches to clean energy deployment are the status quo in many places. We need holistic, highly coordinated, and proactive planning to get clean energy resources connected to the grid.

Tradeoffs of clean energy pathways are obscure. The implications of transforming our clean energy ambitions into reality are myriad yet rarely understood or discussed. Mining and materials processing will need to scale enormously to meet electric vehicle demands; massive amounts of land will be needed for wind and solar facilities; new industrial plants will be needed to create zero-carbon fuels. Greater understanding and social acceptance of these tradeoffs will be required to make enduring progress toward addressing climate change.

Solutions

Infrastructure deployment must be recognized as a critical enabler of the clean energy transition. Clean energy infrastructure is how carbon-free power and fuels are generated, transported, transmitted, and finally delivered to homes, businesses, and industries. Ambitious climate, energy, and decarbonization policies must be met with coordinated and sufficient infrastructure deployment.

Proactive, highly coordinated, and deliberate planning is essential. Establishing planning and coordination processes across states, regions, or nations can shorten project timelines, ensure energy can reach homes and businesses with minimal disruption to ecosystems, and provide greater benefits to communities. Proactively engaging with communities to build social license while considering land use and systems integration are also critical to the success of clean energy projects.

In the U.S., federal and state policy must change to reflect the urgent need for rapid and equitable deployment of clean energy infrastructure. Current policies and regulations at both the federal and state levels do not sufficiently incentivize the scale and scope of infrastructure development needed.

Current Projects

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Land Systems and Clean Energy Infrastructure Deployment

The clean energy transition ultimately requires that we come to terms with where and how to install clean energy infrastructure on the ground. Given the many competing demands for finite lands, this inevitably requires tradeoffs – and provides opportunities for synergies. Making land-smart, place-based infrastructure decisions means accounting for the specific attributes of landscapes in particular environments and communities, each imbued with cultural and social expectations for their highest and best use. Given that we are already living with the impacts of climate change, it also means that we must consider how land is changing and what uses it will be able to support in the future. This complex reality can be a source of conflict and compromise as society grapples with the implications of climate change and all the infrastructure that we build to address it.

CATF is addressing barriers to clean energy deployment at the intersection of land and infrastructure by:

  • Engaging with a wide array of organizations and individuals to advance landscape-scale energy planning that illuminates synergies and tradeoffs for a range of clean energy technologies and deployment pathways;
  • Promoting policies, business models, and public/private investments in land-sparing clean energy innovation and deployment as well as advances in multiple use lands;
  • Improving business models, siting practices, and policies to advance socio-economic opportunities at siting locations

Electricity Transmission

Achieving full decarbonization in the United States will require doubling the size of the electricity transmission system over the next two decades. Achieving this level of transformative deployment, both onshore and offshore, necessitates more ambitious, comprehensive, and integrative planning at a scale and scope that only the government is equipped to perform or sanction. While CATF continues to support incremental policy achievements through our partnerships with other organizations and congressional offices, our transmission advocacy focuses on advancing transformative solutions that can lower financing costs, overcome siting barriers, and incorporate an economy-wide planning paradigm.

Clean Energy Siting

Tens of thousands of clean energy projects will be built in communities around the world in the coming years. As the pace and scale of project deployment have grown, communities have become increasingly reticent to host clean energy projects and approve the requisite permits. Our team examines the social, political, and institutional causes of siting challenges, advances state policy reforms to overcome them, and implements entirely new approaches of planning and siting clean energy that place economic and community benefits at the center of the conversation.

Community Engagement and Benefits

Community benefits are increasingly becoming principal aspects of conversations around clean energy in the United States. There has been increasing interest in using community benefits programs for clean energy infrastructure to mitigate project impacts and increase community support. The programs can vary in structure but often developers agree to provide benefits like grants, workforce opportunities, or educational programs to the host community. While they have the potential to create win-win scenarios for all stakeholders, these programs do not guarantee community support and should be meaningfully created and effectively implemented.

With the federal government and several non-governmental entities publishing information and guidance on types of community benefits and project agreements, CATF has provided the following resources on community benefits:

European Infrastructure Deployment

Europe is a global leader in climate and clean energy goals, legislation, deployment, and investment. In July 2021, the European Commission adopted Fit for 55, striving for a 55% reduction in net greenhouse gas emissions from a 1990 baseline by 2030 for European Union (EU) member states. The added pressure of Russian natural gas supply cuts and the subsequent adoption of REPowerEU, the EU’s plan to phase out Russian fossil fuels, increase clean energy production, and diversify energy sources in the 2027-2030 timeframe, make a full-speed-ahead energy transition even more pressing. But ambitious and urgent energy transition goals cannot be realized without siting, permitting, and land use frameworks to support rapid and unprecedented deployment of clean energy infrastructure. CATF is identifying and addressing clean energy barriers in Europe to support national and regional climate and energy security goals.