Biden blueprint calls for wind and solar to power 90% of U.S. grid by 2050

Solar Panel with Wind and Clouds

The Biden administration on Wednesday outlined an ambitious plan for wind and solar energy to provide 90% of U.S. electricity by 2050.

The U.S. Dept of Energy's Solar Futures Study is a blueprint that broadly shows how the U.S. could reach the milestone in the Biden administration's quest for a zero-carbon grid. The study calls for the U.S. to install an average of 30 GW of solar capacity per year between now and 2025, then 60 GW per year from 2025.

The remainder of the energy mix under the blueprint would be wind (36%), nuclear (11-13%), hydroelectric (5-6%), and biopower/geothermal (1%).

“The study illuminates the fact that solar, our cheapest and fastest-growing source of clean energy, could produce enough electricity to power all of the homes in the U.S. by 2035 and employ as many as 1.5 million people in the process,” said Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm. “Achieving this bright future requires a massive and equitable deployment of renewable energy and strong decarbonization policies –  exactly what is laid out in the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and President Biden’s Build Back Better agenda.”   

The blueprint calls for U.S. energy storage capacity to grow from 30 GW to 1,700 GW by 2050 to provide flexibility and resilience for renewable energy sources. Grid-forming inverters, forecasting, microgrids, and transmission expansion will all be needed, too, the study said.

The study states that a renewable-based grid, and reduced carbon emissions, will result in savings of $1.1 trillion to $1.7 trillion.

Jean Su, energy justice program director at the Center for Biological Diversity, said the Biden administration's target shows "real promise in addressing the climate emergency, but it has to include careful considerations of scale and design.

By prioritizing rooftop and community solar and storage, Biden’s team could boost energy affordability and resilience in extreme weather events like Hurricane Ida. Because private utilities are fighting distributed energy, the Biden administration should make utility reform a key part of this important climate and justice transformation.” 

As the New York Times noted, the blueprint offers only a broad outline of the target, not how to get there.

Last month, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer wrote to colleagues that approving the bipartisan infrastructure bill and the budget reconciliation package would allow the U.S. to nearly reach the Biden administration's goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 45%, compared to 2005 levels, by the end of the decade.

Schumer’s office said the Clean Electricity Payment Program and tax credits for renewable energy sources will make the biggest impact, accounting for 42% of emissions cuts. Incentives for electric vehicles would make up 15.7% of cuts, the analysis shows.

“When you add Administrative actions being planned by the Biden Administration and many states – like New York, California, and Hawaii – we will hit our 50 percent target by 2030,” Schumer said in the letter, according to The Hill.

Lindsey Walter, deputy director of climate and energy for the think tank Third Way, joined Renewable Energy World’s John Engel to discuss the importance of the Clean Electricity Payment Program.

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John Engel is the Content Director for Renewable Energy World. For the past decade, John has worked as a journalist across various mediums -- print, digital, radio, and television -- covering sports, news, and politics. He lives in Asheville, North Carolina with his wife, Malia. Have a story idea or a pitch for Renewable Energy World? Email John at john.engel@clarionevents.com.

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