Full Title: Pathways to Build Back Better: Investing in 100% Clean Electricity
Author(s): John Larsen, Ben King, Hannah Kolus, Whitney Herndon
Publisher(s): Rhodium Group
Publication Date: March 23, 2021
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The electric power sector accounts for 28% of the United States’ net greenhouse gas emissions and is the second highest emitting sector after transportation. While reducing emissions from the electric power sector is only part of what’s needed to decarbonize the US economy, the power sector is where the fastest and cheapest emission reduction opportunities reside. Over the past 15 years, carbon emissions from the electric power sector in the US have dropped by 40%—more than any other US sector. As part of its Build Back Better plan, the Biden administration has a goal to get to 100% clean electricity in 2035—effectively getting the electric power sector all the way to zero emissions within the next 15 years. At the same time, the Biden administration is expected to step up regulation of fossil fuel-fired electric plants in order to cut pollution that endangers public health.
With the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill enacted, the Biden administration and congressional leaders are now turning their attention to a major infrastructure investment package, which may include new infrastructure investment in clean energy. In this note, we explore ways in which congressional clean energy investments in the electric power sector can help accelerate decarbonization and put the sector on a path to zero emissions. We then consider how these investments can complement new power plant regulations that could be put in place in President Biden’s first term.