U.S. utilities want to be shielded from Biden’s tight schedule over clean energy mandate


A wind farm shares space with cornfields the day before the Iowa caucuses, where agriculture and clean energy are key issues, in Latimer, Iowa, United States, February 2, 2020. REUTERS / Jonathan Ernst / File Photo

The U.S. electric industry is poised to comply with the proposed requirement to phase out carbon emissions by 2035 as long as it has the flexibility to meet that target and the ability to miss deadlines. compliance that are proving unrealistic, according to the nation’s largest utility lobby. group.

The comments highlight concerns from the U.S. power industry that President Joe Biden’s goal of rapidly phasing out emissions from the power sector will require breakthroughs in clean energy technologies that may not materialize in time – like the long-life battery storage for wind and solar power, advanced nuclear power plants. and carbon capture projects.

“We need these technologies, and they don’t exist,” said Emily Fisher, senior vice president of clean energy at the Edison Electric Institute.

The Biden administration has pledged to bring the energy industry to net zero carbon emissions – which are achieved when the amount of greenhouse gases produced and the amount removed from the atmosphere are the same – d ‘by 2035 as part of a broader climate change strategy. . To achieve this, earlier this month the White House included a so-called clean energy standard in its $ 2 trillion infrastructure plan.

Such a regulation, which is expected to be passed by Congress, would set incrementally increasing targets for the electricity industry to reduce its emissions until they reach net zero, using a wide range of methods ranging from switching from wind and solar power, to using nuclear power, or sucking greenhouse gases out of fossil fuel plants before they reach the atmosphere.

Several lawmakers have already proposed bills in this direction, including US Senator Tina Smith and Representative Frank Pallone, both Democrats, and Republican Representative David McKinley.

But the details will be crucial, Fisher said. She said the group would support a plan, for example, that would allow utilities to earn bankable credits for outperformance in the early years that could be used for compliance in later years when progress becomes more difficult.

She added that EEI also supported a provision in Pallone’s bill that would allow utilities to seek one-year extensions to their compliance deadlines, for a period of up to five years, to accommodate the possibility that vital technology is unavailable or too expensive.

With that kind of flexibility, a clean energy standard could be adopted by industry, she said: “A well-designed CES makes sense to us.”

The White House did not respond to whether Biden would sign a bill allowing extensions to target compliance dates.


Many utilities already have their own plans to remove carbon from their systems, but most have deadlines of a decade or more beyond 2035. More than half of US states also have growing mandates for carbon. renewable or clean energy.

American Electric Power Company Inc (AEP.O), one of America’s largest electricity companies, has pledged to achieve net zero emissions by 2050. In a statement, it called Biden’s 2035 schedule “An ambitious challenge which will require a significant acceleration of research. and technological breakthroughs.”

Dan Reicher, a former Department of Energy official who is now a researcher at Stanford University, said advancements in clean energy mean Biden may have an easier time than former President Barack Obama to fight against emissions from the energy sector.

Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which was imposed through the Environmental Protection Agency without congressional support, was stalled after Republican states challenged it in court as a federal exaggeration.

“It’s now easier to imagine a utility that you could actually decarbonise at a reasonably competitive price,” he said.

The electricity industry accounts for nearly a third of carbon dioxide emissions in the United States, and its transition to cleaner fuels is seen as critical to enabling other large parts of the economy, such as transport and buildings to reduce their emissions.

Sam Ricketts, co-founder of Evergreen Action – a group that proposed a CES plan in February, said utilities should worry less about the 2035 timeline and focus on early wins.

“The hardest part of the network to decarbonize is the remaining 10%. Rather than fighting over it, let’s talk about what we can do now to get to that 80% reduction,” he said. declared.

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