Similar to the Bush/Gore Presidential Election in 2000, the Trump/Biden Presidential Election in 2020 is a contested election outcome and the legal debate may drag on a few more weeks or months.  As that debate moves from questions to legal consequences, the world is looking at what a Biden Administration may look like on all its fronts and the energy industry is no different.

The Biden/Harris ticket outlined a platform on their campaign website.  Here is a glimpse at the high-level points of The Biden Plan to Build a Modern, Sustainable and an Equitable Clean Energy Future

High-Level Overview of the “Biden Plan”

The “Plan” to build “a more resilient, sustainable economy – one that will put the United States on an irreversible path to achieve net-zero emissions, economy-wide, by no later than 2050.  Joe Biden will seize that opportunity and, in the process, create millions of good-paying jobs that provide workers with the choice to join a union and bargain collectively with their employers.”

The “Plan” proposes to: “Launch a national effort aimed at creating the jobs we need to build a modern, sustainable infrastructure now and deliver an equitable clean energy future…. Will make a $2 trillion accelerated investment, with a plan to deploy those resources over his first term, setting us on an irreversible course to meet the ambitious climate progress that science demands.”

According to the “Plan,” the investments will go to:

  • Infrastructure: Create millions of good, union jobs rebuilding America’s crumbling infrastructure – from roads and bridges to green spaces and water systems to electricity grids and universal broadband – to lay a new foundation for sustainable growth, compete in the global economy, withstand the impacts of climate change, and improve public health, including access to clean air and clean water.
  • Auto Industry: Create one million new jobs in the American auto industry, domestic auto supply chains, and auto infrastructure, from parts to materials to electric vehicle charging stations, positioning American auto workers and manufacturers to win the 21st century; and invest in U.S. auto workers to ensure their jobs are good jobs with a choice to join a union.
  • Transit: Provide every American city with 100,000 or more residents with high-quality, zero-emissions public transportation options through flexible federal investments that create good, union jobs and meet the needs of these cities – ranging from light rail networks to improving existing transit and bus lines to installing infrastructure for pedestrians and bicyclists.
  • Power Sector: Move ambitiously to generate clean, American-made electricity to achieve a carbon pollution-free power sector by 2035. This will enable us to meet the existential threat of climate change while creating millions of jobs with a choice to join a union.
  • Buildings: Upgrade four million buildings and weatherize two million homes over four years, creating at least one million good-paying jobs; and also spur the building retrofit and efficient-appliance manufacturing supply chain by funding direct cash rebates and low-cost financing to upgrade and electrify home appliances and install more efficient windows, which will cut residential energy bills.
  • Environmental Justice: Ensure that environmental justice is a key consideration in where, how, and with whom we build – creating good, union, middle-class jobs in communities left behind, righting wrongs in communities that bear the brunt of pollution, and lifting up the best ideas from across our great nation – rural, urban, and tribal.

Biden’s Views on Why the United States Must Move in This Direction

According to the Biden Plan, there is “a moral obligation” to address the climate crisis and transition to net-zero emissions electricity by 2035. That will create “millions of new good paying jobs” as polluting industries are transitioned to wind and solar.

The Biden “Plan” promises executive orders, legislation, and regulation that will protect the environment.  As mentioned above, it would invest $2 trillion over four years to accelerate clean energy growth and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  Biden also commits the U.S. to rejoining the Paris Climate Agreement, helping transition fossil fuel industry workers to new jobs, and prioritizing environmental justice.

Cal’s Review of the Biden Plan and Its Costs

In the U.C. Berkeley Goldman School of Public Policy 2035 Report (Goldman 2035 Report), the study modeled Biden’s proposed transition by 2035 to a generation mix of 70% wind and solar, 20% hydropower and nuclear, and 10% natural gas.  It concluded the proposal would protect reliability, add 500,000 more jobs every year, avoid hundreds of billions of dollars in health and environmental costs, and lower wholesale electricity costs 10%.  

The study also showed electricity from a low carbon power system is now less expensive than high carbon electricity by adding the health and environmental cost savings makes it less expensive.  But the 2035 study only considered major pollutants.

The costs to replace fossil fuel infrastructure with renewables in the Biden plan would be $261 billion, and the Biden environmental and health policy costs would add $592 billion, but should decline substantially when a 90% emissions-free infrastructure is in place in 2035.

So how much does the Biden Plan cost?  More than $850 billion – that’s the total cost of Biden’s policies through 2035.  Other conclusions in the 2035 Report raise reasonable doubts about the new technologies’ feasibility, jobs, and reliability.

Presidential Election 2020: Biden on Energy and Climate Change

Obviously, the U.S. Congress and the U.S. Senate will have much to say about these transitions and the lobbying on both sides of the matter will be robust.  As we like to say, the fully burdened delivered to load cost to all consumer classes – if these proposals come to fruition – will also have a robust impact on all consumers’ daily lives.