Biden’s opening bid for a clean energy standard

Source: By Josh Siegel and Abby Smith, Washington Examiner • Posted: Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Whether President Joe Biden can deliver on his goal to eliminate carbon emissions from the power sector will likely hinge on one of the most politically tricky pieces of his new infrastructure plan: a clean electricity standard.

The policy, which would require power companies to purchase an increasing amount of clean electricity until they reach 100%, has emerged as a preferred option among Democratic leaders. Biden, in the more than $2 trillion infrastructure plan he’ll unveil in Pittsburgh this afternoon, is proposing to establish an “energy efficiency and clean electricity standard” to move toward 100% carbon-free power by 2035.

The details are sparse: It’s not clear whether his administration will offer specifics on how such a standard should be structured or whether Biden will let Congress fill in the blanks.

The clean electricity standard language stands out in Biden’s plan, which is otherwise largely a massive spending measure — electrifying transportation, supporting renewable and low-carbon energy deployment, and boosting clean energy manufacturing.

Money isn’t everything: Recent research from the Rhodium Group shows that greater investments in clean energy technologies, through tax incentives, can tackle a significant chunk of emissions but won’t eliminate them all.

“We must get a clean electricity standard passed in order to cut emissions in the power sector at the pace and scale necessary to avert a climate catastrophe,” said Leah Stokes, an assistant professor of environmental politics at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

She told us the fact that Biden is proposing to establish the standard in his infrastructure plan is “an opening bid, and it’s up to Congress to flesh out the details and write a bill.”

One of the big questions, though, will be how involved the administration is in crafting clean electricity standard legislation and how much political capital Biden wants to spend to try to push it through in the infrastructure bill, especially given likely GOP opposition