Biden’s “Build A Better Grid” Initiative Just Launched. What Does This Mean For Energy?
Leading up to his inauguration, President Joe Biden’s push to salvage the country’s ailing infrastructure became a key cornerstone of his presidential campaign. Upon his election, he continued his push to “build back better” with a proposed $6 trillion infrastructure deal that would fortify the nation’s bridges, water infrastructure, transit, and power grid.
As far as the grid is concerned, the plan outlined a “Build A Better Grid” initiative to catalyze the nationwide development of upgraded high-capacity transmission lines that will connect more Americans to cleaner, cheaper energy. Emphasis on clean: the President has also announced a goal of reaching 100% carbon emission-free electricity by 2035.
Biden’s bipartisan infrastructure bill was recently passed by Congress — so what does this mean for the future of energy?
“Build A Better Grid” Is Underway. Now What?
On January 12, 2022, the Department of Energy (DOE) launched the Building a Better Grid Initiative to catalyze the nationwide development of new and upgraded high-capacity electric transmission lines. According to the Department’s website, the transmission buildout aims to make the American grid more reliable and resilient in the face of intensifying extreme weather and is critical to achieving the President’s zero-emissions electricity goal by 2035.
If the initiative rolls out as intended, here’s what we can expect to see in coming years:
- Updated grid transmission lines. More than 70% of the nation’s grid transmission lines and power transformers are over 25 years old, which creates extreme vulnerability and reliability issues. What’s more, it’s estimated that the U.S. will need to expand electricity transmission systems by 60% by 2030 — and may need to triple it by 2050 — to accommodate growing demand for clean, affordable energy.
- More investment to enhance grid utilities. The DOE will now have access to $20 billion in federal financing tools, including through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law’s new $2.5 billion Transmission Facilitation Program, $3 billion expansion of the Smart Grid Investment Grant Program, and more than $10 billion in grants for states, Tribes, and utilities to enhance grid resilience and prevent power outages. This is an addition to the preexisting $3 billion Western Area Power Administration Transmission Infrastructure Program and a number of loan guarantee programs through the Loan Programs Office.
- A national network of electric vehicle chargers. $7.5 billion from the President’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will go to building out a national electric vehicle charging network, with an added focus on serving rural, disadvantaged, and hard-to-reach communities.
- An increased emphasis on renewables. Biden’s plan highlights intentions to upgrade U.S. power infrastructure to deliver clean, reliable energy across the country to achieve a zero-emissions future. Certain energy players have already begun taking action, including seven federal agencies who have announced the implementation of clean energy projects. The Department of the Interior, for example, is holding an offshore wind lease sale off the coasts of New York and New Jersey. The move is projected to generate up to 7 gigawatts (GW) of clean energy that has the potential to power two million homes in the surrounding area.
What’s more, the Departments of the Interior, Agriculture, Defense, Energy, and the Environmental Protection Agency have begun collaborating to expand solar, onshore wind, and geothermal energy, on public lands. It’s projected that these projects will deliver 4.175 GW of clean energy.
Improving the U.S. power grid is a challenging, yet sorely needed, endeavor. This is especially true in the face of growing climate threats and the wave of electrification we’ll witness in the near future. The “Build A Better Grid” initiative doesn’t indicate a specific timeline for implementation, but if the U.S. intends to stay on track to hit a zero-emissions power sector by 2035, we’ll need to start seeing major changes happen swiftly.
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