U.S. House Democrats Lay Out Climate, Clean Energy Priorities in Behemoth Plan

On Tuesday, Democratic members of the U.S. House of
Representatives Select Committee on the Climate Crisis unveiled a
mammoth and wide-ranging policy plan to embed climate action and
resilience within the country’s economy.

The report — which aimed to put racial and environmental
justice at the center ofits recommendations — laid out policies
to help the U.S. work towards net-zero greenhouse gas emissions in
all areas of the nation’s economy by mid-century, reaching net
negative emissions beyond that. An analysis of the plan’s impacts
from think tank Energy Innovation quantified its health and climate
benefits at nearly $8 trillion by 2050 in 2018 dollars.

Due to Republican control of the White House and the Senate, the
plan is extremely unlikely to gain traction in Congress, especially
as the 2020 election approaches. But the policy priorities it
contains, laid out over more than 500 pages, demonstrate a marked
shift in congressional dialogue and attention around climate
change. The House created the Select Committee in January of last
year to craft policy recommendations on climate change after
widespread protests for climate action and calls for a
Green New Deal
.

“It shows that the committee has been listening to
stakeholders, and has watched the Democratic primary carefully,â€
Leah Stokes, a political science professor at the University of
California Santa Barbara who recently published a book on U.S.
clean energy and climate policy,
told the Guardian
.

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has also outlined a
goal to reach net-zero emissions by 2050 and has endorsed the Green
New Deal as a “framework†for climate action. He does not
appear to have commented directly on the plan from House
Democrats.

Numerous clean energy recommendations

If adopted, the recommendations would have significant
ramifications for the clean energy industry. Not only does the plan
call for the development of new tax credits, incentives and
innovation programs to support clean energy, but it also recommends
tearing down current economic structures that benefit fossil fuels
while not reflecting the costs of their associated pollution.

Lawmakers write that “decarbonization of the electricity
sector is the linchpin of any national strategy to achieve net-zero
emissions.†Under the plan, the U.S. would reach net-zero
emissions from power generation by 2040.

To boost U.S. clean energy deployment and delivery, the plan
directs the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to develop
long-range transmission strategy and reduce barriers to clean
energy participation in power markets. The agency is currently

embroiled in a battle
over requirements that renewables
receiving state subsidies must bid into grid operator PJM’s
capacity market at high prices that make those resources
uncompetitive.

The committee also recommended Congress extend and expand
renewables tax credits, in particular adding a credit for
grid-scale storage while also investing in research and development
for that technology. Lawmakers would also like to see a production
tax credit for clean energy technologies and products in order to
boost U.S. manufacturing in the space.

Under the committee’s plan, the Department of Energy would
also be reorganized to prioritize climate and would add an Energy
Justice and Democracy Program to widen access to renewables and
energy efficiency in marginalized communities.

The federal government would harden grid infrastructure, develop
federal resilience standards for the electricity grid and offer
incentives to communities for the installation of distributed
energy resources.

Clean energy would also play a role in decarbonizing buildings,
transportation and heavy-duty industry.

In the end, the writers of the plan recognize the last mile of
decarbonization will be in the hardest to electrify sectors, such
as heavy-duty trucking and manufacturing. Energy Innovation’s
analysis showed the recommendations would slash U.S. greenhouse gas
emissions 88 percent from 2010 levels by 2050.

To achieve further emissions reductions, the report encourages
development of carbon removal technologies, a controversial tool
also included in the October 2018 Intergovernmental Panel on
Climate Change report that
outlined the significant global changes
needed for the world to
remain under 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming. Notably, the House
committee also included the potential for carbon-free nuclear power
in its plan but called for a thorough assessment of the
technology’s costs and potential risks.   

While the Democratic plan gained plaudits from clean energy
trade organizations including the American Wind Energy Association,
the American Council on Renewable Energy and the Solar Energy
Industries Association, praise was more subdued from the
environmental organizations that have been the most vocal
supporters of the Green New Deal.

“This plan is more ambitious than anything we have seen from
Democratic leadership so far, but it still needs to go further to
match the full scale of the crisis,†said Lauren Maunus,
legislative manager for the Sunrise Movement, a grassroots group
that helped draft the Green New Deal resolution.

A statement from 350.org encouraged stronger targets for
emissions cuts including timelines for ending fossil fuel
production and subsidies for oil, gas and coal.

The committee’s roadmap would need to be translated into
legislation to further its impact. Separate from the plan, House
Democrats recently
introduced extensions
of the production tax credit and
investment tax credit as part of a large infrastructure package,
which the White House has already
threatened to veto
due to its environmental provisions.

Source: FS – GreenTech Media
U.S. House Democrats Lay Out Climate, Clean Energy
Priorities in Behemoth Plan