With national and global initiatives to combat climate change, the state of Louisiana is falling in line.

At the start of this year, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards and his Climate Initiatives Task Force unanimously approved the state’s inaugural Climate Action Plan, including suggestions on how to ease the effects of climate change, ways to maintain competitiveness in a low-carbon future, and insights into how to transition to clean energy. 

“Costs are competitive relative to where they have been historically, so the ability to install these technologies have fewer bottom-line impacts,” says Prof. David Dismukes, executive director of the Louisiana State University Center for Energy Studies. 

Also, the investment community is expecting publicly traded companies to reduce their exposure to climate-related risks, adds Dismukes. Otherwise, there will be a lack of investment in companies failing to transition and invest in green energy.   

"There is a growing trend in customers becoming more selective in the projects and services they demand. Consumers increasingly want companies that are pursuing environmental best practices," Dismukes says.  

Origin Materials recently announced plans for the construction of Origin 2, its first world-scale manufacturing facility, located in Geismar, La. The firm's patented technology will take the carbon found in wood residuals from local pulp mills and transform it into useful materials. Origin anticipates converting 1 million dry metric tons of wood each year, creating carbon-negative materials used to make polyethylene terephthalate plastic.  

“Siting Origin 2 in Geismar underscores how Governor John Bel Edwards has identified the global transition to a sustainable economy as a real opportunity for the state, playing to Louisiana’s competitive advantages to remain global leaders in energy, industry, agriculture, and transportation,” said Origin’s co-CEO John Bissell in a statement.  

This 150-acre Geismar facility is expected to create 500 construction jobs, 200 local full-time positions, and between 500 and 1,000 indirect local jobs, according to Origin, which expects to break ground in mid-2023 and open the plant in mid-2025. 

Origin expects strong demand for materials, including $5.6 billion in existing off-take agreements and capacity reservations from customers and partners, to continue and remain well ahead of projected supplies for the foreseeable future.  

In Baton Rouge, Project Cyclus will provide power for Fidelis’ Grön Fuels, a 73,000-barrel-per-day facility. This project is expected to produce renewable diesel, sustainable aviation fuel, green hydrogen and bio-plastic feedstock with a net-negative carbon dioxide footprint. This complex could include $9.2 billion of investment over several phases, according to the Louisiana Economic Development, and create 5,585 new jobs for this region. 

At the Port of Columbia, Louisiana Green Fuels is planning to develop a renewable diesel plant that is projected to produce 32 million gallons of renewable fuel per year, by refining wood waste as the feedstock. The company is currently in the planning and feasibility stages and still moving toward a final investment decision. The Louisiana Economic Development said that during a 30-month building phase, the project could generate 450 construction jobs.

“I suspect [this is] just the beginning of a considerably larger number of [projects with] comparable intent. Very exciting times,” adds Dismukes. “Renewable energy project announcements have proliferated in the region, however, most are associated with larger utility-scaled projects.” 

There is a growing trend in solar as well, according to Dismukes. “Overall market trends, and the demand for solar environmental attributes by large corporations are really driving these announcements as well as a number of regional utilities that are seeking to procure RE capacity,” he says. 

While Dismukes expects to see continued growth and expansion and growth in green energy in this region, he also acknowledges there could be challenges for contractors in this space in the near term.  

“There are increasing challenges at the local level comparable to some of the prior ‘not in my backyard’ issues that have arisen in renewable energy development, particularly in rural areas where renewable energy is competing with agricultural interests,” Dismukes says.