The Biden administration announced on Wednesday, September 8, that the United States will aim to produce almost half of its electricity from solar energy sources by 2050, a report in The New York Times explains.
The figures were released in a Department of Energy (DOE) report that was released alongside the Biden administration’s announcement. According to the report, the DOE aims to raise the percentage of electricity sourced from solar to 40 percent by 2035, up from its current level of only 3 percent. By 2050, it then aims to raise that level again to 45 percent.
Climate change is “everybody’s crisis”
The ambitious plan means that the United States would have to quadruple its annual solar capacity constructions, the department explained. They also require a seismic shift in US policy and billions of dollars in federal investment to adapt the nation’s electric grid for the necessary shift towards solar.
The report comes amid a climate change-related rise in devastating global weather events and catastrophes, such as Hurricane Ida and wildfires across Turkey, Greece, and the US in recent months. The proposal seeks to overhaul the country’s energy sector, shifting policy and infrastructure into gear in a bid to combat the worsening effects of climate change.
In a recent tour of neighborhoods affected by Hurricane Ida, President Joe Biden referred to climate change as “everybody’s crisis.” Similarly, UN Secretary-General António Guterres referred to the IPCC’s latest report on climate change as “code red for humanity.” Just last month, the Biden administration also announced an ambitious plan for half of all cars sold in the U.S. to be zero-emission by 2030. Success in reaching that goal will also largely depend on a shift in policy, a great deal of investment, and a shift in consumer behavior.
In a statement, Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said the new DOE report “illuminates the fact that solar, our cheapest and fastest-growing source of clean energy, could produce enough electricity to power all of the homes in the U.S. by 2035 and employ as many as 1.5 million people in the process.”
As per a report by AP, Becca Jones-Albertus, director of the Energy Department’s solar energy technologies office emphasized that the DOE report was “designed to guide” solar innovation and renewable energy policy instead of being an administration statement. In other words, success relies greatly on the shifts in policy implemented in Congress from this moment going forward.
The DOE report estimates approximately $562 billion in additional costs for the construction of solar infrastructure through 2050, much of this relying on “continued technological advances” for the harvesting and storage of solar energy. The report states that this investment would see massive returns as estimates suggest it would save approximately $1.7 trillion through “avoided climate damages and improved air quality.”
Though an evenly split House and Senate might stall progress — libertarian advocacy group Americans for Prosperity, for example, calls the Biden administration’s infrastructure investment plans “wasteful, partisan wish lists” — Biden’s first federal budget called for more than a 60 percent increase on spending, leading to more than $36 billion in climate change-related investment to avert the worst effects of a slowly-unfolding crisis.