Power sector welcomes newly introduced Clean Future Act

Organizations representing America’s power industry commended the introduction on Tuesday of ambitious climate legislation that would ensure the United States aggressively tackles the climate crisis as it works to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas pollution.

“Climate change is one of the biggest challenges of our time, and we are encouraged that there are more policymakers on both sides of the aisle who want to address climate change and advance clean energy development and deployment than ever before,” said Brian Wolff, executive vice president for public policy and external affairs at the Edison Electric Institute (EEI), which represents the nation’s investor-owned electric utilities.

“The CLEAN Future Act reflects the kind of comprehensive legislative approach we will need to start tackling the climate crisis,” agreed Gregory Wetstone, president and CEO of the American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE), a national pan-renewable organization uniting finance, policy and technology to accelerate America’s transition to a renewable energy economy.

Members of the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee on March 2 introduced the Climate Leadership and Environmental Action for our Nation’s (CLEAN) Future Act, H.R. 1512, which is sponsored by committee chairman U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) and committee members U.S. Reps. Paul Tonko (D-NY) and Bobby Rush (D-IL), who cosponsored the bill.

H.R. 1512 aims to build a clean future by addressing the climate crisis, protecting the health and welfare of all Americans, and putting the nation on the path to a net-zero greenhouse gas economy by 2050.

“We commend the House Energy and Commerce Committee for proposing robust climate legislation,” said Heather Zichal, CEO of the American Clean Power Association (ACPA), which represents the U.S. renewable energy industry and calls for uniting the power of wind, solar, storage, and transmission companies and their allied industries.

The CLEAN Future Act proposes sweeping policies to help cut greenhouse gas pollution in areas within the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s jurisdiction, including the U.S. power sector.

For instance, the legislation includes a nationwide Clean Electricity Standard (CES) that would require all retail electricity suppliers to obtain 100 percent clean electricity by 2035, a standard that would be in line with President Joe Biden’s call to action for the power sector.

The CES would mandate that all retail electricity suppliers provide an increasing supply of clean electricity to consumers starting in 2023, rising to 80 percent clean by 2030 and then 100 percent clean by 2035.

“The Clean Electricity Standard represents a meaningful step forward on national energy policy that will help unleash massive new investments into American communities, while helping our country meet its economic and environmental needs simultaneously,” ACPA’s Zichal said.

Wetstone of ACORE pointed out that the inclusion of a federal high-penetration clean energy standard represents one of the most direct and reliable ways to ensure critical emissions reductions in the power sector.

“We’re also pleased to see a first-ever national policy on electric transmission so integral to the ongoing energy transition, along with a number of commonsense steps toward a 21st century Macro Grid that will deliver job growth and economic development, a cleaner environment and lower costs for consumers,” said Wetstone.

Along that vein, the standard also would require that workers be paid prevailing wages for the construction of participating new electricity generation, and that owners and operators of all participating qualifying generation not interfere with the right to organize and bargain, according to a bill summary provided by the lawmakers.

“The American clean power industry looks forward to coordinating with the committee and all parties around a workable framework that ensures rapid deployment of clean energy to drive good-paying jobs and achieve our nation’s economic and climate goals,” Zichal said on Tuesday.

Additionally, H.R. 1512 would authorize investments in clean energy, distributed energy resources, grid infrastructure, and microgrids, all of which build resiliency and are crucial to reducing carbon pollution, the committee members said.

The measure also would empower the federal government to expedite the responsible buildout of the U.S. electricity transmission system to achieve clean energy goals, the lawmakers’ bill summary states.

“We applaud the committee for recognizing the important role that transmission investments play in delivering affordable, reliable energy solutions for American homes and businesses,” said Zichal. “This important push to put steel in the ground and build towards a clean energy economy will require a significant and growing workforce up and down the coasts and across all 50 states.”

Planning ahead
The sponsors of H.R. 1512 said the net-zero greenhouse gas pollution targets come from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which has said the U.S. must cut carbon pollution to net zero by 2050 to avoid the most catastrophic consequences of climate change.

Overall, H.R. 1512 presents both sector-specific and economy-wide solutions to meet those targets, the lawmakers said, and offers a set of policy proposals that would put the U.S. on the path to a cleaner future.

“The climate crisis… presents one of the greatest opportunities to empower American workers with new, good paying jobs and return our economy to a position of strength after a long, dark year of historic job losses and pain,” said Rep. Pallone. “The CLEAN Future Act promises that we will not stand idly by as the rest of the world transitions to clean economies and our workers get left behind, and that we will not watch from the sidelines as the climate crisis wreaks havoc on Americans’ health and homes.”

In addition to provisions related to the power sector, the bill includes those for America’s building sector, industrial sector, federal and state climate plans, waste reduction, environmental justice, and the transportation sector, among others.

For example, the bill strives to help reduce transportation emissions by building the needed infrastructure, and includes substantial investments in transportation electrification, including through grants and rebates to deploy electric vehicles and charging stations, zero-emissions school buses, and formally authorizing a Clean Cities Coalition Program, according to the bill summary.

H.R. 1512 also would update financing programs to expand domestic manufacturing of advanced automotive technologies and would establish an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) grant program to decarbonize and electrify ports around the country.

Wolff said EEI is still reviewing H.R. 1512 but plans to continue working with members of Congress and the Biden administration to address climate change and clean energy infrastructure.

“EEI’s member companies are leading the clean energy transformation,” he said, and “are committed to getting the energy we provide as clean as we can as fast as we can, without compromising on the reliability and the affordability that our customers value.”

Currently, nearly 40 percent of the nation’s electricity comes from carbon-free sources, including nuclear energy, hydropower, wind, and solar energy, Wolff said, adding that carbon emissions from the U.S. electric power industry are at their lowest level in more than 30 years and continue to fall.

“As of year-end 2019, the U.S. electric power industry has reduced its carbon emissions more than 33 percent below peak 2005 levels,” he said.

Wetstone at ACORE said the CLEAN Future Act reflects the kind of comprehensive legislative approach that’s needed to start tackling the climate crisis. “We applaud the legislation’s support for domestic clean energy manufacturing, inclusive workforce development and equitable access to renewable power,” he said, “and we look forward to working with Chairmen Pallone, Tonko and Rush on this important and timely initiative.”

Kim Riley

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