Wind industry releases blueprint for Biden

Source: By Miranda Willson, E&E News reporter • Posted: Wednesday, November 18, 2020

The leading U.S. wind energy trade group released a road map yesterday outlining policy steps for the incoming Biden administration, Congress and federal agencies to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.

The American Wind Energy Association’s 100-day plan for the federal government is centered around four themes: establishing clean energy targets, expanding interstate transmission capacity, expediting federal permitting processes for renewable energy and removing cost barriers for renewables.

“America begins this new decade with the chance to shape an affordable, thriving energy future defined by clean electricity,” AWEA CEO Tom Kiernan said in a statement. “Our country’s leaders must now move forward with bold, sensible policies to create that future, or risk leaving hundreds of thousands of new jobs and hundreds of billions in investments behind.”

The blueprint calls for the establishment of a national target for 100% clean electricity by 2035 and net-zero emissions economywide by 2050. It also proposes that the federal government set its own target of 100% clean energy by 2025.

AWEA’s road map comes on the heels of other policy wish lists put forth in recent days by renewable energy advocacy groups. The Solar Energy Industries Association released a policy agenda for the Biden administration and Congress last week (Energywire, Nov. 13).

President-elect Joe Biden has already signaled support for some of what AWEA and others have suggested, including the nationwide standard for carbon-free electricity. Biden has also pledged to establish a new agency, ARPA-C, that would help bring down the cost of grid-scale battery storage, green hydrogen and other advanced technologies, which AWEA calls for in its plan.

Other policies proposed by the trade group have support from some members of Congress, although the viability of the proposals could depend on whether Democrats take control of the Senate. For example, AWEA says Congress should pass a federal cap-and-trade program and a technology neutral carbon-based tax credit, which many Republicans oppose.

“Carbon emissions pricing should be meaningful enough to drive deployment of renewable energy and rapidly drive down emissions,” the AWEA plan said. “If the price is set with those ends in mind, the electric sector would be particularly responsive, deploying existing and new renewable technologies to help put the country on the path to reach net-zero emissions economy-wide.”

By executive order, the Biden administration should seek to remove barriers that have stalled the development of high-voltage transmission lines, which are needed to integrate large volumes of renewable resources into the electric system.

The administration should also encourage reforms at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the Bureau of Land Management and other agencies to facilitate the deployment of more renewable energy. For BLM, this could include policies that encourage the agency to identify appropriate renewable energy “areas” and expedite project siting there.

“An expedited permitting process for renewables on federal public lands — allowing for accelerated environmental reviews — is projected to more than double existing renewable generating capacity on those lands in the near term,” the plan said.

AWEA also called for the removal of barriers to trade, including tariffs, that make renewable energy projects more expensive to build. Congress should also pass a tax credit for offshore wind projects and an energy storage tax credit, AWEA said.

“Energy storage makes wind and solar more competitive and, therefore, more attractive to investors. A more aggressive timeline for energy storage development would consequently give wind and solar development a push, too,” the plan said.