In clean energy transition, Georgia is at the tip of the spear
Published in Business News
Last August, as a state legislative committee pondered how to prepare for the flood of electric vehicles expected on Georgia roads in the coming years, the state’s top economic development officer came to deliver an important message.
Pat Wilson, just returned from meetings in South Korea with suppliers for Hyundai’s $5.5 billion Bryan County “Metaplant,” ticked through the EV and battery companies that have chosen to build factories in Georgia — a list that has grown in the five months since.
While eager to share the accomplishments, Wilson also tried to convey the big picture to legislators: A seismic shift in the ways people move and get their electricity is well underway, with enormous economic implications in Georgia and beyond.
“This transformation is happening in manufacturing and it’s at a level that we’ve probably never seen since the Industrial Revolution,” said Wilson, the commissioner of the Georgia Department of Economic Development.
At its core, that transition is about turning a global economy based on fossil fuels into one powered by cleaner sources, like wind and solar. And as it unfolds, Georgia is as well-positioned as any state to ride the wave.
Earlier this month, the Korean solar giant Qcells became the latest manufacturer to locate or expand in the Peach State, announcing an investment of $2.5 billion to more than double its Georgia production footprint. In all, green sector companies have announced 35 projects in Georgia, building everything from EVs to e-bikes and the batteries that power them and pledged to create at least 28,000 jobs, the governor’s office has said.
Factories from EV makers Hyundai and Rivian and an announced Hyundai-SK On battery plant rank among the biggest jobs deals in Georgia history. Climate-friendly projects are not just hot in Georgia: Globally, investments in the clean energy transition hit $1.1 trillion in 2022, rivaling spending on fossil fuel production for the first time, according to analysis by the research firm BloombergNEF.
Gov. Brian Kemp has signaled that the state’s green development boom is likely far from over.
In his second-term inaugural address this month, he staked a legacy-defining goal to make Georgia the “electric mobility capital of America.” Days later, Kemp traveled to the exclusive World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland to pitch Georgia to foreign heads of states and corporate chieftains, with a focus on the state’s growing role as a hub of alternative energy innovation.
As an issue, climate change did not figure into either of Kemp’s gubernatorial campaigns. And publicly, he does not mention that many of the companies investing in Georgia are building products meant to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and limit climate change — a reality that’s been denied by other Republicans.
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