Updated December 21, 2022
The Inflation Reduction Act, passed in August 2022, preceded by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which passed at the end of 2021 invest billions of dollars into the United States’ energy infrastructure to aid in the transition to low-carbon energy sources. The distribution and impact of this historic funding opportunity will be influenced by the federal, state and local leaders chosen to represent the Southeast in the 2022 midterm elections.
Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia and Tennessee held elections this year to determine their next governor.
In Alabama, Democratic candidate Yolanda Flowers challenged incumbent Republican candidate Kay Ivey on the ballot. Voters reelected Ivey to serve another term. Governor Ivey recently supported the opening of an EV battery plant in Montgomery, which is aimed to help supply batteries to a Hyundai Plant in Montgomery and Georgia’s Kia Plant.
Arkansas’s gubernatorial election received national attention due to the name recognition of Republican candidate, Sarah Huckabee Sanders. Sanders was White House press secretary under President Donald Trump and her father, Mike Huckabee, was governor of Arkansas from 1996 – 2007. Sarah Huckabee Sanders ran and won against Democrat Chris Jones and Libertarian Ricky Dale Harrington Jr.
Florida’s incumbent candidate for governor, Republican Ron DeSantis, made headlines earlier this year for his veto of a utility supported bill which would prevent net metering. This move garnered support from the solar industry. DeSantis was joined on the ballot this year by former governor of Florida and U.S. Representative Charlie Crist who voted for the Inflation Reduction Act and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law as a member of Congress. DeSantis was reelected to serve a second term as Governor of Florida.
Democratic candidate Stacey Abrams and Republican incumbent Brian Kemp were both on the ballot for governor of Georgia this year. Brian Kemp was reelected to serve another term. During Governor Kemp’s term, relevant projects to the energy industry included the expansion of the Qcells solar plant, an additional investment of $150 million into solar projects, bringing SK Battery America into the state and employing Georgia veterans, as well as bringing major EV manufacturer Rivian into the state.
In Tennessee, citizens chose between current Republican Governor Bill Lee, Democratic candidate Dr. Jason Martin and eight other independents. Governor Bill Lee was reelected. His campaign’s priorities included quality education, economic development, safety and supporting families. His campaign website does not mention his stance on energy or climate change.
Mayoral Elections in State Capitals
Three elections for mayor occurred in state capitals across the Southeast. Frank Scott Jr., the first Black mayor of Little Rock, Arkansas was reelected to serve another term. In March 2022, Scott set a goal to have 100% of city operations run on renewable energy by 2030. The incumbent mayor of Tallahassee, Florida, John Dailey, won reelection. Mayor Dailey has committed to 100% renewable energy in the city by 2050 by implementing energy efficient measures, use solar energy in city buildings, and investing in electric fleet transition. He has worked to expand solar fields at airports and increased the number of city-owned buildings powered by solar. The mayor of Raleigh, North Carolina, Mary-Ann Baldwin, was reelected to serve a second term. During her first term as mayor, she helped develop a Community Climate Action Plan which includes goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80% by 2050 through a combination of electric vehicle fleet transition, energy efficiency in buildings, and supporting renewable energy in the city.
Three Senate races in the Southeast will impact future state of climate and energy policy.
Florida citizens reelected incumbent Republican candidate Senator Marco Rubio versus Democratic candidate Val Demings. Rubio voted against the Inflation Reduction Act and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill but helped pass major legislation in 2008 which gave states the authority to develop renewable energy portfolio standards.
In Georgia, Republican candidate Herschel Walker ran against the incumbent senator Reverend Raphael Warnock. As senator, Warnock supported the Solar Energy Manufacturing for America Act, expanding access to electric charging infrastructure by securing $20 million in grants for this project funding, brought electric school buses to the state, and helped limit the costs that small businesses and rural families pay for electricity. On December 6, Senator Warnock was reelected in the runoff election.
In North Carolina, voters chose between Democrat Cheri Beasley and former U.S. Representative, Republican Ted Budd. Budd was elected to serve as the next senator from North Carolina. In 2021, Ted Budd proposed an amendment to the partisan coined “Green New Deal” which would defund $100 million in environmental justice grants.
Regulatory Commission Elections and Appointments
This fall, in states where public service commissioners are not appointed by governors or other legislative bodies, the public voted for commissioners to represent their districts. These positions are critically important as it is their responsibility to regulate the price that consumers pay for electricity, oversee processes for utilities such as integrated resource planning and approve utility energy efficiency measures and programs.
In Alabama, Place 1 and Place 2 seats were up for reelection. Incumbents, Jeremy Oden and Chris Beeker both were reelected this fall to serve additional four-year terms after winning majority vote against their running mates. There is still one vacancy to fill on this commission. In Louisiana, two commissioner seats were on the ballot this fall, winning the majority in the primary vote, incumbent Mike Francis was reelected in District 4. In the general election on December 10, Davante Lewis was elected to serve as District 3’s next commissioner, unseating Lambert Boissiere III who previously held the seat for 18 years. Lewis intends to address resiliency, investments in renewable energy and the high fees residents pay for late utility payments.
In Arkansas, Katie Anderson was appointed to fill a vacancy in the commission by Governor Hutchinson. In July, Governor Beshear appointed Mary Pat Regan to Kentucky’s public service commission. On May 2, 2022, North Carolina Governor, Roy Cooper appointed Karen Kemerait to the commission. In Tennessee, Commissioner David Crowell was appointed to the commissioner by Speaker of the House Cameron Sexton and Dr. Clay R. Good was also appointed to the commission by Lieutenant Governor Randy McNally.
There is one vacancy on Virginia’s commission this year, this spot should be filled by the General Assembly. The Tennessee Valley Authority Board of Directors has four vacancies. Typically, this board operates with nine directors, however only five are currently serving while three Biden nominees await approval by the Senate. In South Carolina the General Assembly selects commissioners. This year they will select replacements for both Tom Ervin and Justin T. Williams of Districts 4 and 6 whose terms have expired.
Georgia’s public service commission election gained national attention this year because of a 2020 lawsuit challenging the voting method used to elect commissioners. The lawsuit was filed by the Georgia Conservation Voters, Black Voters Matter and the NAACP claims the state’s voting method violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act and dilutes Black votes. The current voting method allows voters from all over the state to elect commissioners for at-large districts rather than selecting a commissioner to represent regional districts. On August 19, the Supreme Court overturned an order from the Circuit Court of Appeals which would have allowed public service commission elections to occur as normal on election day. As of now, elections are paused and commissioners up for reelection will retain their positions as the case continues in 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
- SB290: This bill was passed by the state Senate in February but defeated by the House later that month. It refers to a new requirement that would have required all newly constructed legislative buildings starting in January of 2023 and over 5,000 square feet must have roofs that are compatible with solar panels, cool, or energy efficient.
- HB 73: The state House of Representatives and Senate passed this bill in February which is intended to remove energy efficiency pilot programs as topics of public interest , as well as, removing capacity requirements for renewable energy facilities.
- Executive Order 9: In January, Governor of Virginia signed an executive order which calls to re-evaluate Virginia’s participation in Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) and engage in the process to end it.
2023 Legislative Session Schedule
|State||Legislative Session Convenes||Legislative Session Adjourns|
(all dates are estimates)
|Alabama||January 9||April 30|
|Arkansas||January 9||March 15|
|Florida||March 7||May 5|
|Georgia||January 9||April 2|
|Kentucky||January 3||April 13|
|Louisiana||April 10||June 5|
|Mississippi||January 3||April 4|
|North Carolina||January 11||June 30|
|South Carolina||January 10||June 30|
|Tennessee||January 10||April 26|
|Virginia||January 11||February 15|