The Clean Energy Transition: SACE’s Executive Director Talks Opportunities and Challenges

Dr. Stephen A. Smith, SACE's Executive Director, sat down with Jim Brogan to talk about how a clean energy future is happening now, from the rapidly accelerating electrification of transportation to the billions of dollars in federal climate funding at our fingertips.

Reed Winckler | August 25, 2023 | Clean Energy Generation, Clean Transportation, Climate Change, Energy Efficiency

On July 31, SACE’s Executive Director Dr. Stephen A. Smith appeared on the podcast “More Living with Jim Brogan” to discuss how a healthy environment allows all of us to live healthier, happier lives, and how investing in policies and tools that bolster clean energy and help us move away from polluting fossil fuels can help us get there. 

Each week, Brogan and his guests discuss news and issues like lifestyle, health, financial planning, and more. The topic of clean energy is connected to each of these issues and has recently come to dominate public conversation, and for good reason: the global renewable energy market valued just under $900 billion in 2020 and is expected to reach $2 trillion by 2030. 

Brogan and Dr. Smith discussed the driving force behind climate disruption, the pros and cons of solar energy, the trajectory of the electric vehicle market, and what incentives from utilities and the federal government are in place to help accelerate the clean energy transition – plus, how SACE’s mission encompasses all of this. 

Listen below for Dr. Smith’s quick recap on the driving force behind climate disruption.

Pros and Cons of Solar Energy in the Southeast

Not only can we rely on the sun coming up in the east and setting in the west everyday, but the price point of solar installation has decreased significantly in recent years. That’s why we see solar catapulting in deployment across the world today. 

Dr. Smith discusses utility companies’ financial incentives to offset the price of installing solar, as well as technologies such as battery storage that can also save customers money. 

Dr. Stephen A. Smith, Executive Director of Southern Alliance for Clean Energy

Dr. Smith‘s personal story involves his own rooftop solar panels he installed on his family’s Knoxville, Tennessee home since 2009, the evolution of the relationship between his utility TVA and homeowners with solar panels, and the viability of solar as an investment for customers in the TVA region. 

The Trajectory of the Electric Vehicle Market

“All the big money is tracking in the direction of electrification,” says Dr. Smith. 

Despite this, range anxiety – fear of the inability to find a charging station – remains a primary concern among potential EV buyers, but the deployment of charging stations is growing dramatically every year, and the ability to charge at your own home if you are able makes it that much easier. 

Another concern, especially amid this summer’s heat waves, is the pressure that home EV charging has on the region’s already stressed electricity grid. However, Dr. Smith says, think of the grid as having peaks and valleys: residential power usage ‘peaks’ at a certain time of day – say, when we’re doing laundry and cooking dinner around 5 p.m. – and then experiences demand ‘valleys’ at other times, like when we are asleep at night. By encouraging people to charge their EVs at valley times, like plugging in your car to charge while you sleep, we can allow the grid to run more efficiently. 

Federal Incentives In Place Now to Support a Clean Energy Transition

The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), passed this time last year, is the most substantial federal investment in clean energy that many of us have been waiting on for a long time. Another federal initiative called the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) also has the power to accelerate our transition to clean energy. While these national policies alone will not be enough to combat our dependence on nonrenewables, they propel us significantly down the path. They also allow us to bring technologies and manufacturing back to the United States, such as moving battery production here from countries like China, because manufacturers cannot receive the tax incentives from the IRA unless their production happens in the states. 

All of this means jobs returning to the states. As we transition to clean energy, a wealth of jobs is materializing especially in manufacturing. Here in the Southeast, we’re capturing a bulk of those as battery manufacturers, electric vehicle factories, and more decide to call the Southeast home. 

What’s Next?

The Southeast consistently lags behind other regions and the nation as a whole on utility energy efficiency performance investments in renewable energy, and utilities like TVA are largely to blame, for prioritizing low rates on electricity instead of bolstering renewable energy. Despite TVA’s low ‘rates’, our electricity bills are high because of inordinately high consumption patterns here in Tennessee. 

An important next step is educating consumers and homeowners on ways to be efficient with their energy consumption and what programs are available to help them do that. Dr. Smith says that is where SACE steps in, alongside other members of today’s Clean Energy Generation working against climate disruption. Together, we have the power to encourage others to take advantage of the availability of the clean and renewable energy that exists all around us. 


There are many ways all of us can start taking action today as part of the Clean Energy Generation, whether it’s learning more about clean energy efforts in your town, taking steps to make your home more energy efficient, or getting out and talking to your community about what a clean energy future looks like for you. There’s no wrong way to get involved, and we all have what it takes to make a difference – especially when we join together as one Clean Energy Generation. 

Join the Clean Energy Generation

Take Action With the Clean Energy Generation

Thank you to Jim Brogan for hosting SACE’s Executive Director Stephen A. Smith on his podcast “More Living with Jim Brogan,” which you can find here.  


Reed Winckler
Reed joined the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy in 2023 as Communications Coordinator and is based in Atlanta, Georgia. Her focus is writing and creating content for SACE emails, newsletters,…
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