Granholm open to filibuster-proof clean power mandate

Source: By Ben Geman, Axios • Posted: Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said the use of the filibuster-proof budget reconciliation process is an option for trying to pass a mandate that would greatly escalate zero-carbon power generation.

Why it matters: One of President Biden’s most aggressive targets is achieving 100% carbon-free electricity generation by 2035, and a “clean electricity standard” could be a key tool to get there.

What they’re saying: “I think there still are versions of a clean energy standard that work for Senate reconciliation rules,” Granholm said Tuesday at a forum hosted by the energy research firm BloombergNEF.

  • “The question about whether you can get a clean energy standard through regular order or reconciliation — all of that is still remains to be seen,” she said.
  • But she also said there are several possible structures, and repeatedly emphasized that no decisions have been made.
  • “There’s also a way to consider crafting something that provides incentives to the states to be able to make that happen also, so that might be another venue,” Granholm said.

The big picture: A standard is part of the sweeping infrastructure plan the White House floated two weeks ago as the administration looks to accelerate clean energy deployment beyond its current trajectory.

  • Granholm’s remarks suggest administration officials could look to work with Democrats to craft a standard that fits within reconciliation — the way to approve certain spending and revenue provisions without 60 Senate votes.
  • Several analyses completed within the past year that have laid out the feasibility of cutting U.S. greenhouse gas emissions to 50% below 2005 levels by 2030 noted the importance of enacting a federal clean electricity standard in order to reach the goal.

Reality check: Attempts to use reconciliation would face considerable procedural hurdles to fit within the parameters of the complicated Senate process.

  • There are political barriers too. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), who chairs the Senate’s Energy Committee, has spoken against using reconciliation.

Between the lines: The groups Evergreen Action and Data for Progress recently released a proposal for ways to craft a clean electricity standard that could fit within reconciliation rules.

One option they lay out is a new federal system of “zero-emissions electricity credits.”

  • “Utilities would earn ZECs by continuously increasing the amount of carbon-free electricity they deliver to customers, or else purchase the credits from the federal program,” the authors note in a Vox summary.