A Totally Green Electric Grid Will Dramatically Speed Up Climate Action
Joe Biden’s emphasis on creating a 100% carbon-free system by 2035 could unlock major breakthroughs. But it’s a difficult path few other nations are taking.
By David R Baker
, Brian Eckhouse
, and Akshat Rathi
July 28, 2020, 2:00 PM GMT+3
The perfectly green electricity grid sought by Joe Biden isn’t the end of the fight against global warming. It’s the beginning.
Today, 40% of America’s electricity comes from carbon-free sources. The Democratic presidential candidate has made getting that to 100% by 2035 a centerpiece of his $2 trillion plan to address climate change and create jobs. Getting there would take an enormous expansion of solar and wind capacity in the U.S., backed by mass adoption of energy-storage technologies and hanging onto existing hydroelectric and nuclear plants.Policy experts question the 15-year timetable for eliminating emissions from the electrical system, which would indeed be an immensechallenge. About a quarter of all U.S. emissions today come from electricity production, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Even California, which launched an all-out push to decarbonize its grid in 2002, set 2045 as its goal. The state also has some of the nation’s highest electricity prices, although renewables are only one reason why. Sweden and Austria both set all-renewables goals to be met within the next 20 years, but they’re also both small and have grids that are already plenty green.
However, many of those same policy experts also agree that a clean grid is an initial leap that will make many other necessary steps possible, helping reduce emissions from transportation, industry, and buildings.