By Rich Powell
February 24, 2021 at 5:00 am ET
Addressing climate change is undeniably a top priority for the Biden administration. As the tragic weather events in Texas and across the Midwest wreak havoc on our energy system, preparing our grid to be reliable needs to be front and center.
However, President Joe Biden’s emerging strategy – governing via executive orders, revoking the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline, placing a moratorium on all oil- and gas-related leasing and permitting actions on federal lands – seemingly hasn’t focused on grid reliability and does not involve Republicans.
Contrary to the rhetoric in some circles, Republicans have ambitious climate proposals too, and have spent the last two Congresses busily enacting a massive innovation-focused approach to the global climate challenge. In December, for example, Congress passed the most significant clean energy legislation we’ve seen in over a decade – the Energy Act of 2020. The resulting package was a culmination of hard work on both sides of the Hill – reconciling the Senate’s (Republican-led) American Energy Innovation Act (S. 2657) and the House’s Clean Economy Jobs and Innovation Act (H.R. 4447).
Conservatives’ clean energy innovation plans in recent years are the first steps on the path for the power and industrial sectors to reach their net-zero emissions goals – while remaining affordable and reliable.
However, even with a split Senate, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) seems to follow Biden’s partisan lead, signaling the Senate is poised to enact a one-party approach. Schumer did, however, close his floor remarks recently by insisting he looks forward to working with Republicans to “find some common ground on [the climate] issue.”
Let’s hope he’s serious and builds on recent bipartisan success.
It’s clear that bipartisan solutions work, and as the 117th Congress gears up, both parties should work together to build off of these successes.
Here are five big clean energy policies that already have bipartisan support and would ensure a reliable power sector:
Implement the Energy Act of 2020: Implementation of and funding for the technological innovations of more than 20 major demonstrations for storage, geothermal, advanced nuclear and carbon capture will provide options for both American and global energy systems to go clean and address the global emissions reduction challenge. We need to continue smart, targeted investments by the U.S. Department of Energy that focus on real-world outcomes.
Pass ESIC: The Energy Sector Innovation Credit (ESIC), a bipartisan bill previously introduced in the House by Reps. Tom Reed (R-N.Y.), Jimmy Panetta (D-Calif.) and others, creates tax incentives for breakthrough power generation and storage technologies across the clean energy spectrum. The bill would establish a single incentive system for promising new and emerging power technologies. For each technology, the incentive automatically ramps down as individual technologies scale up. Ask any power company that’s made a net-zero commitment, and they’ll tell you the technology to get them all the way there isn’t yet available. Let’s work with them — not against them.
Streamline permitting: We should not needlessly slow down new clean energy projects. Right now, we can build new power plants, nuclear reactors, wind and solar farms, hydroelectric dams and transmission lines only as fast as we can get permits for the projects. With endless bureaucracy and red tape, that often takes a very long time – five to 10 years in some cases. Making the permitting process more efficient is essential for two reasons: for the prudent stewardship of taxpayer resources, and for scaling clean energy rapidly.
Embrace a Clean-Energy Marshall Plan: In addition to accelerating innovation in the United States, we need to leverage the U.S. trade and development agencies, the Export Import Bank and the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation to get U.S. clean energy technologies deployed around the globe. Each of these agencies offers robust export credit financing options for technologies important to the developing world — and due to the size of energy projects, almost every major project requires financing backstops from the exporting country. As a result of helping our allies around the globe build clean energy, the United States will also reap tremendous economic benefits from new trade opportunities.
Pass ANIA: The American Nuclear Innovation Act (ANIA), introduced last Congress by Sens. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), and Cory Booker (D-N.J.), would establish multiple programs that support both currently operating nuclear reactors as well as the next generation of reactor technologies. These include a targeted credit program to prevent the premature shutdown of the existing fleet, prizes to the first approved licenses for multiple advanced reactor designs, continued regulatory modernization and broader international development and investments.
Congress just worked together to pass a historic, bipartisan clean energy innovation law. Lawmakers were successful in these efforts because they found common ground. We need to make sure American clean energy technologies are available and affordable to all Americans. There’s a lot of innovative technologies to be excited about, but there’s a lot more Congress can do. Let’s get started.
Rich Powell leads ClearPath, a DC-based nonprofit that develops and advances policies that accelerate breakthrough innovations that reduce emissions in the energy and industrial sectors.
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