US White House backs 2030 milestone on path to net zero grid

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WASHINGTON (REUTERS) – The White House hopes to capitalise on growing support from US utilities, unions and green groups for a national clean energy mandate by backing efforts to require the US grid to get 80 per cent of its power from emissions-free sources by 2030, according to a senior administration official.

A 2030 target would be a milestone on the way to achieving President Joe Biden’s stated ambition of net zero carbon emissions in the grid by 2035. It could also potentially be passed without Republican support through a process called budget reconciliation.

“Our goal is to enact this into law,” deputy White House climate adviser Ali Zaidi told Reuters, speaking of the administration’s push for a so-called clean energy standard (CES) to decarbonise the power sector.

The latter would require reductions in emissions by adopting renewables like wind and solar, using nuclear energy or finding ways to suck up and sequester greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel plants.

“There are multiple pathways to get meaningful progress in the power sector,” Zaidi said. “We think this is a really powerful one in terms of giving utilities a clear and clean planning horizon.”

Requiring utilities to move away from coal and natural gas is a cornerstone of US President Joe Biden’s plan to slash greenhouse gas emissions in half across the US economy in the next decade.

Many utilities already have plans to remove carbon from their systems due to investor pressure or state mandates, so they broadly support the policy. They are concerned however, that technological breakthroughs needed to reach zero emissions may not materialise in time to meet a 2035 timeline.

In a statement, the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association said the administration’s 2035 goal was “overly ambitious.” This month, however, 13 major utilities sent a letter to Biden in support of a power sector goal that would cut emissions by 80 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030.

The country’s grid is currently just 40 per cent clean, but getting to 80 per cent by 2030 can be achieved with existing