Biden Administration Prioritizing US Sustainability and Climate Action

In an article for Public Utilities Fortnightly, Guidehouse says the energy sector should plan for an aggressive agenda of climate and clean energy initiatives

On his first day in office, President Joe Biden signed an executive order to rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement, signaling that the US is ready to once again lead on sustainability and climate change.

In article for Public Utilities Fortnightly, Jan Vrins, leader of Guidehouse’s global Energy, Sustainability, and Infrastructure segment, said the energy sector will need to improve planning, procurement, and market operations, and develop creative financing and business models to achieve the important decarbonization and energy goals Biden laid out in his climate plan. 

Biden's goals include reaching net zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2050 and investing $1.7 trillion dollars in clean energy and jobs. The president is also targeting carbon-free electricity generation by 2035, which will accelerate decarbonization plans for many utilities.

“Throughout the past four years, sustainability and clean energy grew rapidly in the US with virtually no federal support, driven primarily by pressure from the financial sector,” Vrins said. “Utilities, state and local governments, and corporations are now preparing for a rapid acceleration of clean energy and sustainability expectations when the federal government adds its influence to existing financial drivers.”

As a result, Vrins said changes are expected to unfold across the following sectors:

  • International: The US is expected to take more of a leading role globally. The administration may use economic leverage to drive adoption and enforce climate targets and reductions. 
  • Power generation: The US is expected to see an even stronger push for 100% clean energy generation, including possibly instituting a clean energy standard (CES) that requires a certain percentage of retail electricity sales to come from zero- to low-emitting sources. 
  • Transportation: The US is expected to keep the Clean Air Act, along with new fuel economy standards and a move toward full vehicle electrification.
  • Buildings: The US is expected to create rebates and financing for retrofitting residential and commercial buildings, with a goal of four million buildings and two million homes over the next four years.
  • Public companies: The US is expected to require firms to measure and disclose GHG footprints, both for owned operations and supply chains, and to analyze and disclose climate change-related risks. 
  • Oil & gas: The US is expected to set methane pollution limits for operations, and new oil and gas permitting will likely be required on public lands. 

“It will not be easy to unwind some of the policies that have weakened climate protections or to reintroduce climate protection policies from the Obama administration,” Vrins said. “Nevertheless, it is likely this agenda will be aggressively pursued.”

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