Report: Georgia big winner in clean energy jobs

The report found Georgia was second only to Michigan with the number of new or expanded clean energy projects
ELLABELL, GA. - JUNE 5, 2023: Workers prepare to pour the concrete floor of the assembly building on the Hyundai Metaplant site, Monday, July 5, 2023, in Ellabell, Ga. (AJC Photo/Stephen B. Morton)

Credit: Stephen B. Morton for the AJC

Credit: Stephen B. Morton for the AJC

ELLABELL, GA. - JUNE 5, 2023: Workers prepare to pour the concrete floor of the assembly building on the Hyundai Metaplant site, Monday, July 5, 2023, in Ellabell, Ga. (AJC Photo/Stephen B. Morton)

Georgia is a leading beneficiary of new clean energy projects that have promised to bring more than 19,000 jobs to the state and create more than 200,000 jobs across the country, according to a report released last week by Climate Power, an advocacy organization.

The report found Georgia was second only to Michigan with the number of new or expanded clean energy projects announced since August, 2022, when President Joe Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA).

Democrats’ sprawling health care and climate law included billions of dollars in tax credits for the private sector to transition away from fossil fuels. It was passed at a time when Georgia was already starting to establish itself as a major manufacturing hub for electric vehicles and batteries.

Since then, even more investments have been announced. Hyundai Motor Group and its suppliers are planning to spend more than $14 billion in the state, while solar manufacturer Qcells announced a $2.5 billion expansion of its facilities in northwest Georgia.

Republican and Democratic officials alike have cheered the new jobs, but tend to disagree on who deserves credit and whether the IRA is helping or hurting.

The CEO of Qcells, which completed the first phase of its expansion last month, has said both the federal tax cuts and Georgia’s economic development team helped secure the company’s investment.

Hyundai executives, meanwhile, have been vocally unhappy about the fact that their vehicles built overseas no longer qualify for federal EV tax credits, as they had previously. Gov. Brian Kemp and his surrogates have seized on their frustration over ‘made in America’ provisions of the law that forced the company to accelerate its plans in Georgia

“It wasn’t done because, you know, they were excited about the project or excited about the IRA,” said Garrison Douglas, a spokesperson for Gov. Brian Kemp. “Hyundai’s been very clear about how they have been disadvantaged by the IRA — I mean, that’s the largest project that the state has received.”

Kemp has credited the state with luring Hyundai, its subsidiaries and suppliers to Georgia with business-friendly policies. He has said he supports repealing the IRA or amending it to allow Hyundai to get the tax breaks before its U.S.-based assembly line is up and running.

Despite executives’ frustrations, Hyundai Motor Group recently reported both sales and operating profit at an all-time high. Douglas was not able to name another company that has invested in Georgia and shares Hyundai’s concerns about the domestic production requirements of the tax incentives.

For Democrats, forcing companies to accelerate or increase their American investments is one of the main goals of the law. During her visit to Atlanta earlier this year, U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm described the domestic manufacturing requirement as “tough love” that will pay off in U.S. jobs.

John Podesta, a senior White House advisor on clean energy, said Climate Power’s numbers tracked closely with other studies and what the federal government has documented. He said the private sector appeared to be reacting to changes in the market being driven by a range of government activities at the state and federal level.

“But clearly, these 10 years of tax credits have caused a surge of investment in manufacturing,” Podesta said. “There’s no question that people make individual decisions... based on a range of factors, from workforce to incentives that are being provided by state and local governments, but the lion’s share of the investment coming to the United States, if you talk to business after business, is a result of that 10 years of certainty on the tax side.”

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