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Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said the use of the filibuster-proof budget reconciliation process is an option for trying to pass a mandate that would greatly escalate zero-carbon power generation.

Why it matters: One of President Biden's most aggressive targets is achieving 100% carbon-free electricity generation by 2035, and a "clean electricity standard" could be a key tool to get there.

What they're saying: "I think there still are versions of a clean energy standard that work for Senate reconciliation rules," Granholm said Tuesday at a forum hosted by the energy research firm BloombergNEF.

  • "The question about whether you can get a clean energy standard through regular order or reconciliation — all of that is still remains to be seen," she said.
  • But she also said there are several possible structures, and repeatedly emphasized that no decisions have been made.
  • “There's also a way to consider crafting something that provides incentives to the states to be able to make that happen also, so that might be another venue," Granholm said.

The big picture: A standard is part of the sweeping infrastructure plan the White House floated two weeks ago as the administration looks to accelerate clean energy deployment beyond its current trajectory.

  • Granholm's remarks suggest administration officials could look to work with Democrats to craft a standard that fits within reconciliation — the way to approve certain spending and revenue provisions without 60 Senate votes.
  • Several analyses completed within the past year that have laid out the feasibility of cutting U.S. greenhouse gas emissions to 50% below 2005 levels by 2030 noted the importance of enacting a federal clean electricity standard in order to reach the goal.

Reality check: Attempts to use reconciliation would face considerable procedural hurdles to fit within the parameters of the complicated Senate process.

  • There are political barriers too. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), who chairs the Senate's Energy Committee, has spoken against using reconciliation.

Between the lines: The groups Evergreen Action and Data for Progress recently released a proposal for ways to craft a clean electricity standard that could fit within reconciliation rules.

One option they lay out is a new federal system of "zero-emissions electricity credits."

  • "Utilities would earn ZECs by continuously increasing the amount of carbon-free electricity they deliver to customers, or else purchase the credits from the federal program," the authors note in a Vox summary.

Go deeper

Biden under pressure to set tough emissions target

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

In the run-up to the White House's virtual climate summit on April 22-23, environmental groups and now major corporations are presenting a united front in calling for at least a 50% cut in U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, when compared to 2005 levels.

Why it matters: The 2030 targets are needed since the world is on course to sail above the warming targets set in place by the Paris Climate Agreement, resulting in potentially catastrophic climate impacts. These include the loss of much of the world's coral reefs and melting of some of the planet's largest ice sheets.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Apr 13, 2021 - Energy & Environment

New Texas-based VC firm to exclusively invest in energy transition tech

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

A new Houston-based VC firm called Energy Transition Ventures emerged from stealth mode Tuesday and plans to reach $75 million for its first fund.

Why it matters: It's another sign of how Texas, the nation's largest oil producing state, is increasingly becoming a hub for clean energy innovation.

1 hour ago - World

U.S. will give Russians written response to NATO demands, Blinken says

Blinken and Lavrov shake hands in Geneva. Photo: Russian Foreign Ministry / Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Secretary of State Antony Blinken confirmed after a meeting with his Russian counterpart on Friday that the U.S. will provide written answers to Russia's security demands next week.

Why it matters: Russia claims to be waiting for "concrete answers" to its demands that NATO rule out further expansion and roll back its presence in eastern Europe before deciding its next steps on Ukraine. But the U.S. and NATO have called those proposals "non-starters," and Friday's meeting offered no breakthroughs, so it's unclear how written answers might change the equation.