New U.S. administration seeks net-zero by 2050
February 8, 2021

President Joe Biden and his administration have pledged to simultaneously rebuild the US economy and address the threat of climate change. Early signs show he’s “walking the talk” with recent Executive Order 14008 on Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad indicating a desire to accelerate the deployment of clean energy and transmission projects.

Campaign promises

Part of President Biden’s pitch to become president was that he would prioritize bringing the US electrical grid to 100% carbon-free electricity by 2035 and the entire economy to net-zero by 2050.

Day one – setting the agenda

On his first day in office, the 46th POTUS directed federal agencies to immediately review regulations and executive actions taken in the past four years that threatened public health or the environment. He took steps to rejoin the Paris climate accord as well, which means the US will re-commit to reduce emissions 26-28% below 2005 levels by 2025. And, in Executive Order 13990 on Protecting Public Health and the Environment and Restoring Science to Tackle the Climate Crisis, he blocked the controversial Keystone XL Pipeline, restored public land protections and launched a review of environmental regulations.

Broad intentions and a high-level roadmap

On January 27, President Biden signed an executive order on Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad. This order, among other things, aims to double US offshore wind capacity by 2030 and accelerate transmission and clean energy buildout. It also calls for transitioning the federal government’s vehicle fleet to all-electric and American-made. Biden directed “federal agencies to procure carbon pollution-free electricity and clean, zero-emission vehicles to create good-paying, union jobs and stimulate clean energy industries.”

This executive order also includes plans for clean energy innovation with priority given to accelerate R&D on many clean energy technologies, e.g., battery storage, renewable hydrogen and advanced nuclear. There is clear language related to increasing efforts to innovate around clean energy supply-chain resilience as well.

New roadmap, new team members

The executive order also establishes new federal entities charged with the implementation of key climate objectives, including the White House Office of Domestic Climate Policy, the National Climate Task Force, and the Interagency Working Group on Coal and Power Plant Communities and Economic Revitalization.

Since his inauguration, President Biden appointed new FERC Chairman, Richard Glick. At the time of this writing, Jennifer Granholm and Michael Regan are awaiting Senate confirmations for their positions as the new Secretary of Energy and the new administrator of the US Environmental Protection Agency respectively.

Looking ahead

Meanwhile, as the country struggles amid the COVID-19 pandemic, many utilities are extending their moratoriums on disconnections through the winter months. President Biden has extended the federal pause on evictions through March 31st and has proposed federal assistance of an additional $30 billion in rental and utility-bill aid, but that has yet to be negotiated and passed by Congress.

While the new administration’s actions so far are fairly high-level, all indications are that we can anticipate more guidance and other energy sector stimuli as the US moves toward its clean energy goals.

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