Breaking Down Joe Biden’s Claim That Clean Energy Will Make Up 80% Of The Energy Grid By 2030

Elias Atienza | Senior Reporter

President Joe Biden claimed in an Aug. 20 post on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, that clean energy will make up 81% of the energy grid by 2030.

The White House has a goal of 80% of the energy grid being powered by renewable energy, such as solar power and wind, according to NPR. A White House fact-sheet states that the goal of the administration is to have a “carbon pollution-free electricity sector by no later than 2035 and a net-zero emissions economy by no later than 2050.”

The federal government, through bills passed like the Infrastructure and Jobs Act, is heavily investing in renewable energy infrastructure such as electric vehicle chargers and electric buses, while companies are taking advantage of tax breaks related to electric vehicles and renewable energy manufacturing through the Inflation Reduction Act, according to The New York Times. Companies have pledged more than $230 billion into manufacturing investments, with the tax breaks estimated to cost $1.2 trillion over the next 10 years, the outlet reported.

Non-fossil fuel energy made up 22% of energy consumption in the U.S. in 2022, according to the Energy Information Administration (EIA). In its March 2023 “Annual Energy Outlooks,” fossil fuels such as oil, natural gas and coal are likely to make up a substantial part of total capacity by 2050.

Figure 3. Total installed capacity in all sectors, 2022(history) and 2050

Screenshot/Energy Information Administration’s “ANNUAL ENERGY OUTLOOK 2023.”

It is hard to fact-check a prediction. Check Your Fact instead decided to look into whether or not the goal was feasible.

There are differing definitions of what constitutes “clean energy.” The Department of Energy states on its website that a “clean energy revolution” is taking place and lists “solarwindwatergeothermalbioenergy & nuclear” as part of the energy sources. The Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental advocacy group, states that ‘[r]enewable energy, often referred to as clean energy, comes from natural sources or processes that are constantly replenished.” Nuclear is not mentioned as a clean energy source.

The NRDC does say that it “acknowledges its beneficial low-carbon attributes in a warming world” but that “expanding nuclear power should not be a leading strategy for diversifying America’s energy portfolio and reducing carbon pollution.”

Ed Hirs, an energy fellow at the University of Houston, told Check Your Fact that clean energy “is typically considered to be zero emission energy in the production of the energy (typically, electricity). The addition of emissions or pollution related to the manufacture or building of the power plants is not always added in. ”

Experts told Check Your Fact that the goal of 80% clean energy was aggressive, with one saying it was plausible but “aspirational.” (RELATED: Can Brian Kemp Pardon Trump?)

“81% is a weirdly specific number, but also this is very aggressive/ambitious even for 2030. It’s important to note that this is ‘clean’ energy NOT NECESSARILY ‘renewable’ energy. To me, this makes this goal possible to meet if not clearly aspirational,” Aimee Curtright, a senior scientist at the non-partisan RAND Corporation, told Check Your Fact in an email. “The success of hydrogen hubs is going to be key to scaling up solar and wind, which are intermittent and (more importantly) seasonal. Batteries cannot fix the seasonality problem – they are (WAY!) too expensive for storing electricity for weeks and months.”

Hirs told Check Your Fact that the 80% clean energy was “technically feasible but that the “question is whether it is economically feasible. ”

Brigham McCown, senior fellow and director of the Initiative on American Energy Security at the Hudson Institute –a conservative think tank– said that it was “unlikely we will see renewables comprising a majority of the electric grid until 2040 or earlier.”

“Given the average electric project requires a decade or longer to plan, permit, and construct, the same overstretched energy grid we have outside our windows today will be the same one we will have in 2033 absent significant and systemic changes to existing energy policy which seems unlikely given the lack of consensus among policymakers on this topic,” McCown said.

The White House did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Elias Atienza

Senior Reporter
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