From 4% to 45%: Biden Offers Ambitious Blueprint for Solar Energy

The Energy Department analysis provides only a broad outline, and many of the details will be decided by congressional lawmakers.


By Ivan Penn

The Biden administration on Wednesday released a blueprint for producing almost half of the nation’s electricity from the sun by 2050 — something that would require the country to double the amount of solar energy installed every year over the next four years and then double it again by 2030.

The expansion of solar energy is part of President Biden’s effort to fight climate change, but the new target would represent a huge leap with little historical precedent — solar energy contributed less than 4 percent of the country’s electricity last year.

Such a large increase, laid out in an Energy Department report, is in line with what most climate scientists say is needed to stave off the worst effects of global warming. It would require a vast transformation in technology, the energy industry and the way people live.

The Energy Department said its calculations showed that solar panels had fallen so much in cost that they could produce 40 percent of the country’s electricity by 2035 — enough to power all American homes — and 45 percent by 2050.

Getting there will mean trillions of dollars in investments by homeowners, businesses and the government. The electric grid — built for hulking coal, natural gas and nuclear power plants — would have to be almost completely remade with the addition of batteries, transmission lines and other technologies that can soak up electricity when the sun is shining and to send it from one corner of the country to another.

The new report is consistent with climate and energy plans laid out by Mr. Biden during his campaign last year, when he said he wanted to bring net planet-warming emissions from the power sector to zero by 2035. He also wants to add hundreds of offshore wind turbines to the seven currently in American waters. And last month, he announced that he wanted half of all new cars sold be electric by 2030 in a White House event with executives from three of the nation’s largest automakers — a goal that will depend in large part on whether there will be enough places to plugs in those cars.

But administration officials have provided only a broad outline for how they hope to clean up the country’s energy system and its cars and trucks. Many details will ultimately be decided by Congress, which is working on a bipartisan infrastructure bill and a much larger Democratic measure that could authorize $3.5 trillion in federal spending.

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