US media outlet Axios is reporting that a broad and powerful coalition of environmental groups will be ramping up pressure on US President Joe Biden to implement an effective policy mechanism to realise a rapid shift in America’s electric grid.
The Biden administration went to the recent election with an ambition to achieve 100% carbon free power by 2035, but has so far not begun the process of creating legislative instruments to realise this change. The ambition aligns with the Biden administrations intention to achieve net zero emissions by 2050, and the recently announced interim 2030 target of 50% to 52% by 2030.
A recent analysis from the University of Maryland showed that emissions reductions in the US electricity sector will provide the vast majority of reductions prior to 2030, to achieve a 51% emissions reductions target, from 2005 levels. Of all sectors in the US economy, greenhouse gas reductions in the electricity sector would provide 28% of the 51%, with 11% from transport and 5% from industry and buildings carbon emissions.
The coalition of environmental groups has authored a letter that urges Biden to seize on the significant emissions reductions benefits of immediate transformation of the US’ various grids, dominated by fossil gas but with many states still heavily reliant on coal. Clean Electricity Standards (CES) apply a requirement for a certain percentage of electricity sales for retailers to be sources from zero carbon sources; much like Australia’s Renewable Energy Target. However, they do not include a subsidy scheme for renewables. Around three quarters of US states have implement what are known as ‘renewable portfolio standards’, but there is no federal scheme of this kind.
The authors of the letter highlight a memo from US progressive think tank Data for Progress that shows a majority of Americans support a 2035 ‘Clean Electricity Standard’, with more than 60% of voters supporting the idea. Democrats are at around 85%, and Republicans at 40% support, suggesting a surmountable partisan divide still exists on the issue. A majority of voters in US battleground states support a clean energy standard.
“Renewable energy is now the cheapest form of energy, and a well-designed CES can save ratepayers money. Coal is so expensive that continuing to run uneconomical coal plants over the past three years has wasted $3.5 billion in ratepayer funds—a figure that doesn’t even account for the costs to our healthcare system from fossil fuel pollution, or the massive and accelerating costs of the climate crisis”, write the authors.
“This standard must be coupled with large investments in environmental justice communities and requirements to protect and expand good-paying union jobs in the clean energy economy. In light of the tremendous job and economic benefits sorely needed to help ensure a rapid recovery and the immediacy of the climate crisis, we urge you to advance this legislation without delay, and using the budget reconciliation process if necessary”.
Last week, the US Leaders Climate Summit saw increasing pressure placed on Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison, with further moves in the US to commence a rapid grid transition likely to stand in stark contrast to Australia’s relative slow progress on phasing out coal and gas from the grid. Currently, Australia’s Energy Market Operator predicts range of possibilities in 2035, between 48% and 73% zero carbon energy ranging between different scenarios in its 2020 Integrated System Plan report.