Biden Aims To Raise Solar Power From 3% to 45% Of US Energy Supply By 2045

By on
US President Joe Biden speaks during a virtual briefing on preparations for Hurricane Ida
US President Joe Biden speaks during a virtual briefing on preparations for Hurricane Ida

The Biden administration unveiled an ambitious new plan Wednesday that calls for a dramatic ramp-up of solar energy production as a portion of the energy grid. The proposal specifically seeks to increase the solar power of all national energy supplies from 3% to 45% by 2045.

The proposal from the Department of Energy’s Solar Energy Technologies Office and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory aims for an investment and spending strategy that would take place across multiple industries. It would require building on the number of solar installations and doubling the capacity additions annually through 2025 before quadrupling for each subsequent year after 2025 until 2030. According to the report, solar capacity by 2050 will need to reach 1,600 gigawatts, which is more than the total electrical consumption of residential and commercial buildings today.

“The study illuminates the fact that solar, our cheapest and fastest-growing source of clean energy, could produce enough electricity to power all of the homes in the U.S. by 2035 and employ as many as 1.5 million people in the process,” Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm said in an accompanying statement.

“Achieving this bright future requires a massive and equitable deployment of renewable energy and strong decarbonization policies – exactly what is laid out in the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and President Biden’s Build Back Better agenda,” she continued.

The administration's goals may be quite difficult to achieve. In February, the Energy Department projected that the share of electricity produced by all renewable sources —  solar, wind and hydroelectric dams — would reach 42% by 2050, a lower number than the 45% goal for solar alone projected in the new report. Experts interviewed by the New York Times suggest that setting goals are important, but clear steps to reach any of them are where the trouble lies.

Part of Biden's plan for meeting clean-energy goals includes using tax credits to encourage the use of solar technology and to urge local governments to find ways to make it easier to acquire permits to build new solar projects. The administration may also be interested in rewarding utility companies that shift toward renewable power sources under the Clean Electricity Payment Program that is included in the $3.5 trillion spending proposal from members of Biden’s Democratic Party.

Biden has made confronting global climate change a central element to his foreign and domestic policies, and has pledged to reach a pollution-free energy grid by 2035. The administration’s proposal came a day after the president surveyed the damage caused by severe flooding in New York and New Jersey where he called the moment “code red” to capture his sense of urgency in confronting the climate crisis.

“Climate change poses an existential threat to our lives, to our economy. And the threat is here; it’s not going to get any better,” Biden warned in remarks to residents in the borough of Queens, which bore the brunt of the damage from Hurricane Ida within the city. Thirteen people were killed in New York City, while 11 died in Queens. 

Last week, the remnants of Hurricane Ida left a path of destruction across the East Coast after making initial landfall in Louisiana. A total of 71 people were killed across eight states and Ida is now considered the fifth-most damaging storm in U.S. history.

Join the Discussion