Biden’s Clean Energy Plan for Economic Recovery and Job Growth Will Make History Posted on Nov 10, 2020

By Linda F. Hersey

The amount of funding about to be injected into the cleantech industry in what President-elect Biden calls the “Clean Energy Revolution” is unprecedented. A historic investment in energy and climate research and innovation, as well as clean and resilient infrastructure and communities, begins in 2021.  Given that fossil fuels still comprise nearly 80 percent of global energy use, the market growth potential for the cleantech industry is unfathomable by most.

President-elect Joe Biden is poised to sign a series of executive orders on Day One of his Administration that will launch his $1.7 trillion plan to fight global warming and energize the green economy. By using the power of the pen – his signature – Biden can enact major policies and direct funding without congressional approval.

Biden is pledging to do just that.

The Democratic leader has tied the fight to end global warming to boosting the U.S. economy and employment during the Covid-19 pandemic, which has shut down and idled businesses. Biden sees clean energy as a key economic driver. In January 2021, when he assumes the Oval Office, among other things President Biden aims to:

  • Direct billions in federal funds to drive toward 100 percent clean energy and acquire a fleet of zero -emission electric vehicles – government cars and buses for public transit.
  • Provide incentives for rapid deployment of clean energy innovations across the economy, especially in communities impacted by climate change.
  • Link environmental justice to energy planning.
  • Establish a network of a half-million electric vehicle charging stations across the U.S.
  • Toughen vehicle emissions standards for new cars and light trucks in the U.S.
  • Require all U.S. government installations, buildings and facilities to be more efficient and climate-ready, harnessing purchasing power and supply chains to drive innovation.
  • Implement new, aggressive appliance and building efficiency standards.
  • Commit that every federal infrastructure investment should reduce climate pollution, and require any federal permitting decision to consider the effects of greenhouse gas emissions and climate change.
  • Tighten methane standards for oil and gas production.
  • End new gas and oil drilling leases on federal lands and waters.

The immediate result of his executive orders to initiate the Clean Energy Revolution will drive down further the cost for new, alternative energy, Steve Westly, the former Chief Financial Officer for the state of California and an early Tesla board member told TechCrunch.

“There are revolutions occurring in smart energy… and they are driven by renewable energy,” he said, noting the cost is “less than carbon-based fuels.”

Westly also said that “70 percent of the new energy” coming online is sustainable, with storage costs, including for lithium batteries, dropping “precipitously.”

Indeed, Biden is bullish on clean energy as an economic driver. “We’re going to make major investments that will seize the opportunity [to] meet this moment in history,” said Biden, when he launched his ambitious climate change plan as a major campaign platform. He was the first presidential candidate in U.S. history to make climate change a centerpiece of a campaign.

While some observers and the media point to a divided Congress as potentially weakening meaningful clean energy policies and standards, Biden is likely to draw on his decades of experience and goodwill in Congress to sway moderates, such as Maine senators Susan Collins and Angus King, who previously worked in the alternative energy industry.  Moreover, increasingly, new technologies such as those deployed in microgrids gaining rapid deployment globally are finding support outside of the bipartisan divide.

The Biden Administration also can tack on clean spending initiatives to a stimulus bill, which both parties support during the economic downturn due to Covid-19. Obama in 2007-2008 used a similar strategy to inject research and develop funds for green technology in a stimulus package to energize the economy during a recession.

Likewise, an infrastructure bill has broad support in Congress. Biden could add funds to retrofit up to four million buildings in the U.S. and to invest in energy efficiencies in up to two million new homes, under the climate change plan he has outlined.

Over the next four years, cleantech businesses can expect to see Biden Administration mandates for clean technology in manufacturing, power and transportation, yielding billions of dollars in federal investments and the potential to create millions of new jobs.

Globally, Biden has promised to rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement, which asks participants to set stringent goals on limiting greenhouse gases. Biden also promises to make appointments in his administration of personnel who share his vision and goals for clean technology.

Biden’s articulated commitment to decarbonize the power grid by 2035 and make the U.S. economy carbon neutral by 2050 not only signals the incoming Administration’s emphasis on clean energy, it takes early and major steps to re-establish trust with global allies that have made ending climate change a priority.  In the shadow of a global pandemic that made people intimately aware of our global responsibility to one another, the opportunity to tackle climate change through rapid deployment of the cleantech industry has arrived.