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Exclusive: White House backs 2030 milestone on path to net zero grid

CommoditiesApr 26, 2021 11:36PM ET
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2/2 © Reuters. Wind turbines generate power on a farm near Throckmorton 2/2

By Valerie Volcovici and Nichola Groom

(Reuters) - The White House hopes to capitalize on growing support from U.S. utilities, unions and green groups for a national clean energy mandate by backing efforts to require the U.S. grid to get 80% of its power from emissions-free sources by 2030, according to a senior administration official.

A 2030 target would be a milestone on the way to achieving President Joe Biden's stated ambition of net zero carbon emissions in the grid by 2035. It could also potentially be passed without Republican support through a process called budget reconciliation.

"Our goal is to enact this into law," deputy White Houseclimate adviser Ali Zaidi told Reuters, speaking of the administration's push for a so-called clean energy standard (CES) to decarbonize the power sector.

The latter would require reductions in emissions by adopting renewables like wind and solar, using nuclear energy or finding ways to suck up and sequester greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel plants.

"There are multiple pathways to get meaningful progress in the power sector," Zaidi said. "We think this is a really powerful one in terms of giving utilities a clear and clean planning horizon."

Requiring utilities to move away from coal and natural gas is a cornerstone of U.S. President Joe Biden's plan to slash greenhouse gas emissions in half across the U.S. economy in the next decade.

Many utilities already have plans to remove carbon from their systems due to investor pressure or state mandates, so they broadly support the policy. They are concerned https://www.reuters.com/business/sustainable-business/us-utilities-want-protection-bidens-tight-timeline-clean-energy-mandate-2021-04-14, however, that technological breakthroughs needed to reach zero emissions may not materialize in time to meet a 2035 timeline.

In a statement, the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association said the administration's 2035 goal was "overly ambitious."

This month, however, 13 major utilities sent a letter to Biden in support of a power sector goal that would cut emissions by 80% below 2005 levels by 2030.

The country's grid is currently just 40% clean, but getting to 80% by 2030 can be achieved with existing technologies at no additional cost to ratepayers in every region because the cost of renewables and batteries have come down so much, according to a new analysis https://energyinnovation.org/publication/2030-report-powering-americas-clean-economy by researchers at Energy Innovation and the University of California, Berkeley. (read more https://energyinnovation.org/publication/a-national-clean-electricity-standard-to-benefit-all-americans)

The policy has support from members of both parties in Congress, though Republicans have not embraced the administration's aggressive timeline due to concerns that it will drive up costs and kill jobs in fossil fuel industries.

Democrats could pass a CES with a simple majority as a revision of budget legislation if the CES sets a 2030 target, since reconciliation measures must fall within a 10-year window.

The Senate is currently divided 50-50 between Democrats and Republican, but Democrats have control because Vice President Kamala Harris can break a tie. Legislation outside of the reconciliation process would need 60 votes to bypass a potential Republican procedural move known as a filibuster.

The White House is weighing various legislative options and speaking to lawmakers in both parties.

Exclusive: White House backs 2030 milestone on path to net zero grid
 

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Comments (3)
John Klan
John Klan Apr 27, 2021 12:13AM ET
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They'll back anything the government wanted to do as long as the billions in subsidies flow into their coffers.
Kaveh Sun
Kaveh Sun Apr 26, 2021 9:37PM ET
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We get the end of Libs/green stick. Utilities just jackup the price for ‘green electricity’ to a point that most our bill is over 100usd/month. At over 100usd/month solar is the choice but most of us cant too.
Wayne Gillispie
Wayne Gillispie Apr 26, 2021 7:53PM ET
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We need to start building battery, solar panel, inverter, charge controller, battery management system manufacturing plants. Right now, I can’t find anything not made in Asia.
 
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