On Wednesday, President Joe Biden announced the American Jobs Plan (AJP), a bold vision for infrastructure to build back better and power a clean energy economic recovery. The plan includes a Clean Electricity Standard (CES) for 100% carbon-free electricity by 2035, a transformative proposal that could be the single most important climate policy of the Biden era.
Cleaning up our power grid is essential to the fight against the climate crisis and a CES is one of the most powerful tools to get it done. Paired with complementary policies to electrify the building, transportation, and industrial sectors, transitioning to a 100% clean electricity grid could ultimately drive a 70–80% reduction in carbon emissions in the United States. In February, Evergreen and Data for Progress detailed multiple legislative pathways to enact a 100% 2035 CES, including via budget reconciliation, in A Roadmap to 100% Clean Electricity By 2035.
But a federal CES presents more than just an opportunity to supercharge our fight against the climate crisis — it will create millions of jobs, eliminate poisonous air pollution, and reduce utility bills for ratepayers across the country. Polling has consistently shown that Americans support a clean energy transition and President Biden’s proposed 100% by 2035 clean electricity standard is a chance to deliver on climate, jobs, and justice through proven and popular policy.
How Does It Work?
A Clean Electricity Standard requires the utilities that generate and sell electricity to meet ambitious clean energy targets by ramping up the percentage of carbon-free power sources in their portfolio over time until they reach 100% clean.
There are myriad ways to design a federal CES to rapidly decarbonize the power sector and center equity, good jobs, and community benefits — including multiple pathways to pass one via reconciliation. Evergreen and Data for Progress detailed 3 potential options for federal CES policies optimized for passage through budget reconciliation in a report released earlier this year.
The AJP also includes several proposals that, alongside a federal CES, will be key to accelerating America’s clean energy transition. Strong labor standards for jobs in the clean energy economy, clean energy tax incentives turned into direct-pay grants, half a million new electric vehicle charging stations, and targeting at least 40% of the benefits of new clean energy and infrastructure investments to historically disadvantaged communities will all be critical to delivering on President Biden’s commitment to build back better as we transition to a clean energy economy.
Proven, Popular, and Practical
Thanks to leadership at the state level, we know that CES policies work to propel new clean energy generation, create jobs, and drive down costs for consumers — and the polling shows these policies are popular with the overwhelming majority of voters. Now, we can build on that success by enacting a federal CES.
30 states, Washington DC, and three U.S. territories have already implemented CES-like policies that require utilities to increase their use of renewable or carbon-free electricity and 16 of those states have committed to 100% carbon pollution-free power. States that have enacted some version of these policies have helped grow clean energy industries that now employ over three million Americans — more than three times more than work in fossil fuel industries.
Polling from Data for Progress earlier this year found that two-thirds of likely voters support transforming the nation’s power grid by 2035 to reduce pollution and address the climate crisis, including an overwhelming majority of Democrats (86 percent), a majority of independents (60 percent), and 40 percent of Republicans. Those findings are consistent with polling last year from the Yale Program on Climate Communication that found 66% of registered voters “support requiring electric utilities to produce 100% of their electricity from renewable energy sources by the year 2035.”
Passing a 2035 100% CES this year will help us make progress on a multitude of the most important challenges we face and realize President Biden’s vision to build back better. A CES will create jobs all over the country, make electricity cheaper by taking costly fossil fuel power plants off the grid, and remove deadly air pollution that disproportionately impacts low income communities and communities of color — all while accelerating our transition to a clean energy future.
Cleaning up the power sector is a linchpin to decarbonizing our economy and staving off the worst impacts of the climate crisis, and President Biden’s proposal for a 100% CES by 2035 is our best tool to make it happen. Now, it’s up to Congress to deliver.