Energy & Environment

Biden administration report shows solar could produce 45 percent of US electricity by 2050

solar panels at sunset

The Biden administration on Wednesday released a new report that shows how the U.S. could boost its use of solar power to as much as 45 percent of U.S. electricity use, an effort that could help the U.S. meet goals to limit climate change.

The Energy Department study outlines three possible scenarios including two in which the U.S. grid is 95 percent decarbonized by 2035 and an ambitious third one in which the grid is fully decarbonized by 2050. One way to fulfill that scenario would be to have solar power comprise 45 percent of electricity generation by 2050.

To reach the target, the U.S. would need to produce twice as much solar energy annually as it did in 2020 over the next four years before doubling the output again between 2025 and 2030.

The release of the blueprint comes a day after President Biden toured areas of New York and New Jersey that experienced severe flooding from the remnants of Hurricane Ida last week. Biden on one of his stops said such incidents related to climate change are here and only likely to get worse.

Biden is also focused on including a number of provisions to reduce the U.S. carbon output as part of a $3.5 trillion spending package that Democrats hope to get to his desk this fall. 

In a statement, Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm emphasized that the plan would have to rely on cooperation from Congress, which is currently considering both the spending package and a bipartisan infrastructure bill containing major climate provisions.

“The study 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,” Granholm said in a statement.

The blueprint’s release follows an August memo in which the department made a similar estimate, saying solar could account for up to 40 percent of electricity generation by 2035. The Biden administration has set a goal of fully decarbonized electricity generation by that year and has increasingly centered its climate and decarbonization targets in the wake of the devastation of Ida.

Solar production currently accounts for 3 percent of electricity production in the U.S. 

Reaching the target of 95 percent decarbonization by 2035 would require the country to install 30 gigawatts alternating current per year from 2021 to 2025 and to double that annual number for the remainder of the decade.

The study calculated the net incremental cost of a fully decarbonized grid in 2050 as $210 billion, compared to net savings of $1.7 trillion through averted damage from climate change and air pollution.

Climate scientists have said reaching a goal of net-zero emissions by 2050 is necessary to avert a catastrophic warming scenario.

However, the roadmap is also more ambitious than some of the administration’s own earlier projections, including a February projection that shows all renewables only reaching 42 percent by 2050.

Updated at 3:15 p.m.

Tags Climate change decarbonization Energy Jennifer Granholm Joe Biden
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