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US 'needs clean power standard' to reach Biden's climate goal

Delegates at Clean Power summit called for measures to help install and connect 140GW/year of wind power to meet 2035 target

Many US states, including New York, already have their own clean energy standard (pic: Noble Environmental Power)

Major hurdles for the US to reach the presidents 100% clean power by 2035 goal include clogged interconnection queues, lack of transmission, and — for offshore wind — embedded interests such as fishermen and wealthy coastal homeowners.

This is according to panellists on the first day of the Clean Power 2021 virtual summit.

Installations of wind, solar and batter storage will have to increase sevenfold to reach Joe Biden's goal, from 20-30GW a year now to 140GW annually, said Dan Shreve, head of Wood Mackenzie's global wind research practice.

"It's staggering," he said, noting the positive momentum resulting from the tax credit increases passed in December. But a clean energy standard (CES) will be critical to meeting the goal. "It can get the power grid cleaned up," Shreve added.

To meet Biden's goal, the US will need to install hundreds of gigawatts of onshore wind and 100GW of offshore wind in less than a decade and a half.

A CES is in Biden's proposed $1.7 trillion American Jobs Plan for infrastructure, which includes $100 billion in grid improvements, extended tax credits and a CES.

Permitting must be reformed, transmission must be fast-tracked, and the government must continue to accelerate offshore wind development by holding more frequent of auctions, said Shreve.

Leah Stokes, an expert in environmental policy at the University of California, Santa Barbara, said a federal CES should help fund the energy transition, as opposed to the country's many state-level clean energy standards, which require utilities to purchase a certain proportion of renewable energy.

She suggested that the federal government could help pay for the stranded cost of coal plants after they become redundant because of policy changes, or it could help subsidise customer electricity bills.

Biden's infrastructure bill is this week at the centre of heated negotiations with Senate Republicans, who have made a $928 billion counteroffer that does not include clean energy or climate-change provisions.