This post is a follow up to our earlier blog post, Transmission: A Key Aspect of New Climate Policies.

A flurry of climate plans have been released by presidential candidates in the lead up to the 2020 election. At ACEG, we believe modernizing and expanding our electrical grid is a key component of climate action. It is necessary to increase the use and availability of low-cost renewable energy resources that can meet 80% of our energy needs by 2050 with current technologies.

On a bipartisan basis, we will be routinely reviewing the climate plans of all declared presidential candidates and highlighting text from those that recognize the integral role our electrical grid can play in combatting climate change.

Last updated: March 6, 2020

2020 Presidential Candidates

Vice President Joe Biden

From the Vice President’s Plan for a Clean Energy Revolution and Environmental Justice:

Build a stronger, more resilient nation. On day one, Biden will make smart infrastructure investments to rebuild the nation and to ensure that our buildings, water, transportation, and energy infrastructure can withstand the impacts of climate change. Every dollar spent toward rebuilding our roads, bridges, buildings, the electric grid, and our water infrastructure will be used to prevent, reduce, and withstand a changing climate.

Rally the rest of the world to address the grave climate threat:

A more integrated energy grid from Mexico through Central America and Colombia supplied by increasingly clean energy.

 

Representative Tulsi Gabbard

No mention of transmission on Representative Gabbard’s campaign website.

 

Senator Bernie Sanders

From Senator Sander’s The Green New Deal:

As president, Bernie will build a modern smart grid. A smart grid means a resilient, secure, and intelligent electric grid system that is capable of managing high amounts of renewable energy, charging electric vehicles quickly, and maximizing efficiency. We will spend $526 billion on a modern, high-volt, underground, renewable, direct current, smart, electric transmission and distribution grid will ensure our transition to 100 percent sustainable energy is safe and smooth

Transform our energy system away from fossil fuels to 100 percent energy efficiency and sustainable energy by 2030 at the latest. The New Deal provided inexpensive electricity to America through efforts like the Rural Electrification Administration and the Federal Power Marketing Administrations. If the federal government was able to electrify America under FDR without computers or any of the modern technologies we have available to us today, think of what we can do today. Municipal and cooperative electric utilities still provide some of the least expensive electricity in the country today. As part of the Green New Deal, we will expand on that success.

Build enough renewable energy generation capacity for the nation’s growing needs. Currently, four federal Power Marketing Administrations (PMAs) and the Tennessee Valley Authority generate and transmit power to distribution utilities in 33 states. We will create one more PMA to cover the remaining states and territories and expand the existing PMAs to build more than enough wind, solar, energy storage and geothermal power plants. We will spend $1.52 trillion on renewable energy and $852 billion to build energy storage capacity. Together, with an EPA federal renewable energy standard, this will fully drive out non-sustainable generation sources.

We will end greed in our energy system. The renewable energy generated by the Green New Deal will be publicly owned, managed by the Federal Power Marketing Administrations, the Bureau of Reclamation and the Tennessee Valley Authority and sold to distribution utilities with a preference for public power districts, municipally- and cooperatively-owned utilities with democratic, public ownership, and other existing utilities that demonstrate a commitment to the public interest. The Department of Energy will provide technical assistance to states and municipalities that would like to establish publicly owned distribution utilities or community choice aggregation programs in their communities. Electricity will be sold at current rates to keep the cost of electricity stable during this transition.

Invest in workers and de-industrialized communities’ economic development. Counties with more than 35 qualifying workers will be eligible for targeted economic development funding to ensure job creation in the same communities that will feel the impact of the transition most. Economic development funding will be distributed through an interagency effort spearheaded by the Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration. Funds will be allocated through the Appalachian Regional Commission, Economic Development Assistance Programs and the Abandoned Mine Lands fund. Other eligible projects include drinking and waste water infrastructure, broadband, and electric grid infrastructure investments. These targeted investments are intended to supplement, not supplant infrastructure and economic development funding throughout the rest of this plan.

Infrastructure investments for impacted communities. We will provide $130 billion for counties impacted by climate change with funding for water, broadband, and electric grid infrastructure investments.

 

President Donald Trump

No mention of transmission on President Trump’s 2020 campaign website.

 

Governor Bill Weld

No mention of transmission in Governor Weld’s Policies from the Desk of Bill Weld: Climate Change.

 

Note: these materials were last updated on February 20, 2020 and will be routinely modified. If we are missing any plans that include details on the electric transmission grid, please contact us: info@cleanenergygrid.org

 

Former Candidates:

 

Senator Michael Bennet

From Senator Bennet’s American Climate Change Plan:

Launch a 2030 Climate Challenge: Each state should address climate change as fast as possible and on its own terms, not Washington’s, based on its population, resources, and risks. The Bennet Administration will develop a 2030 Climate Challenge that provides additional federal infrastructure funding to state governments that reduce emissions and climate risks faster. The 2030 Climate Challenge will:

Call on state and local governments to create their own plans to achieve net-zero emissions as fast as technologically feasible by 2030.

Offer states that submit their plan within the first six months of the Bennet Administration the opportunity to compete for bonus federal infrastructure and innovation funding to meet and exceed the targets in their own plans.

Measure each state’s progress by its ability to achieve the following criteria: reduce emissions; sequester carbon in our ecosystems; increase high-quality job opportunities and training; assist communities that have experienced harmful levels of pollution; coordinate with other states to accelerate permitting timelines for zero-emission technologies, including electric grid transmission and resilient infrastructure; reduce climate risks; improve public health; procure low carbon products; lower the cost of energy; empower communities and workers affected by climate change and the transition to zero-emission technologies; and leverage private and philanthropic sector funding.

 

Mayor Mike Bloomberg

From the Mayor’s Plan for 100% Clean Power:

Accelerate the use of clean energy to replace power from fossil fuels as soon as possible

Mike will extend tax incentives for clean energy and energy storage. He will create new incentives to help low-income families afford clean energy. Mike will work with Congress and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to develop a 100% clean energy standard, energy efficiency standards, and a smart power grid. He also will work with state and local governments to accelerate the construction of transmission and clean energy projects, including offshore and on federal lands previously used for fossil fuel extraction.

Quadruple the federal R&D investment in clean energy, and end all subsidies for fossil fuels

Mike will increase federal investment in clean energy R&D to at least $25 billion a year, prioritizing storage and grid technologies, as well as sectors of the economy that are hardest to decarbonize. He will cut off subsidies and close tax loopholes for coal, oil and gas.

 

Mayor Pete Buttigieg

From the Mayor’s Mobilizing America: Rising to the Climate Challenge:

Incentivize clean energy deployment. We will extend and modernize the investment and performance tax credits for solar, wind, geothermal, and other clean energy technologies and long-duration battery storage, as well as for long distance transmission using performance measures and phase-out levels.

Integrate high quantities of renewables into the grid. Both long-distance transmission and distributed energy resources enable a zero-emissions electricity system. In addition to deploying large amounts of 27 renewable generation into the grid, the U.S. will need to build out a nationwide network of high-voltage direct current transmission lines, in some cases using federal right of ways and burying transmission lines to improve the existing transmission system. We will make it easier to coordinate interregional 28 transmission planning, working with governors and states, to enable critical transmission projects.

Electricity markets. Performance-based regulation rewards electric utilities based on their achievement of specific performance measurements—in this case, a 100% clean grid that is affordable, reliable, and secure. We will ensure that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) sets rules and goals for 29 reliability, cost, emissions, and utility innovation that reward utilities for helping to reach the national goal of building a zero-emissions clean electricity system by 2035. Additionally, FERC will modernize wholesale electricity markets to change the way we pay for clean electricity. A modern market will value the positive attributes of clean electricity to compete on a level playing field.

 

Senator Cory Booker

From Senator Booker’s Plan to Address the Threat of Climate Change:

IPCC scientists and the National Climate Assessment have both made clear that we need to achieve net-zero global emissions by 2050. But in order for the U.S. to lead, we need to move even faster. While places like Europe and China are investing in the infrastructure to support a clean energy economy, the U.S. is falling behind. We need a power grid that can send power in different directions, charge car batteries when energy supplies are high, and “talk” to appliances to tell them when to draw more or less from the grid. Cory’s plan will invest in a next-generation smart grid and nationwide EV charging network, so that it can better handle utility-scale renewables, distributed renewables, energy efficiency measures and appliances, long-distance transmission, energy storage, and a fully electrified transportation sector.

Just as U.S.-led R&D made us first to put a man on the moon, it will help us lead the transition to the global clean energy economy. Moonshot Hubs will rebuild the U.S. auto industry as the global leader in electric light and heavy duty vehicles, develop next-generation solar and wind technologies and the grid and infrastructure to deploy them at scale, make our homes and buildings net energy producers, build the batteries and energy storage systems that best complement renewable energy, create next-generation nuclear technologies, grow a more sustainable food system, cost-effectively expand public transportation access, and much more.

 

Governor Steve Bullock

From the Governor’s Tackling the Climate Crisis:

Work with state governments, the private sector, and unions to update our national electric grid – the oldest energy technology and equipment still operating. An updated grid will create jobs, modernize delivery, and spur economic growth across the country.

 

U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro

From Secretary Castro’s People and Planet First:

We will start by creating a $200 billion Green Infrastructure Fund to invest in physical infrastructure such as smart grids and electric vehicle charging stations.

Investing in green infrastructure is critical to meeting climate goals and building resilient communities. The fund would support investments into climate resilience infrastructure through grants and loans that fund projects with strong union protections in construction, maintenance, and operation. This fund would aim to leverage an additional $600 billion in state, local, and private investments.

Projects would include water management systems, smart and resilient energy grids, electrified public transportation systems, electric-vehicle charging stations, and other infrastructure programs that help us adapt communities for a carbon-emission free future.

Establishing green infrastructure would also include extending the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s authority to site high-capacity transmission lines to connect regions with a high capacity for renewable energy generation with other parts of the country and adopt uniform policies to integrate energy storage and distributed energy into regional transmission organizations and independent system operators. This authority would be similar to existing FERC authorities to site pipelines that pass through multiple state and local jurisdictions.

 

Representative John Delaney

From the Representative’s $2 Trillion Infrastructure Plan:

Climate change has led to more frequent and dangerous storms, which have resulted in widespread damage across the country. These storms have had devastating effects including increased forest fires and flooding. What meteorologists deem as 100- year floods have been occurring with more frequency, leading to widespread destruction to land, people’s homes, and public infrastructure. Recently in Iowa when the levees broke along the Missouri River, communities were flooded resulting in billions of dollars in damage and forcing people from their homes.

We also need to make our energy transmission systems more efficient to better conserve energy and avoid waste. We need to invest in and improve climate resilient infrastructure to protect communities against the effects of climate change, which is why Delaney proposes the creation of a $60 billion Climate Infrastructure Fund that will allow state and local governments to invest in and prioritize projects that will expand and improve climate resilient infrastructure in addition to improving energy efficiency in our systems. This will also pay for Delaney’s previously announced Carbon Throughway, an infrastructure project that will transport captured carbon from the Midwest and transport it for permanent sequestration and reuse in the Permian Basin.

 

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand

From Senator Gillibrand’s Plan to Tackle Climate Change:

As president, I will also work to get us to net-zero carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions — nationwide and across the economy. We must set our ambitions high and aim to achieve net-zero emissions in the next decade, and we will put enforceable standards in place to ensure our whole economy meets net-zero emissions no later than 2050.

In a decade, I’ll strive to get us to 100% clean, renewable, and zero-carbon electricity, and I’ll prioritize transforming our electric grid into a system that’s designed to better handle renewable and distributed energy.

 

Senator Kamala Harris

From Senator Harris’s A Climate Plan for the People:

Building an electrical grid for the 21st century will require comprehensive cooperation between federal, tribal, state, and local governments. This includes transmission infrastructure that will both connect our communities with renewable energy sources and support the distributed energy resources that are critical to achieving our clean energy goals. Spurring the transmission infrastructure required to achieve our goals will require new incentives like expanding the Investment Tax Credit to transmission infrastructure to ensure that transmission is not holding back penetration of renewables.

 

Governor John Hickenlooper

From the Governor’s Plan to Combat Climate Change:

A market-based and job-creating clean energy plan for America. Hickenlooper will also launch an ambitious effort to move the US to a clean energy future, with particular reliance on market-based and inclusive job-creating initiatives. These include:

Hickenlooper’s infrastructure plan will include targeted spending on clean energy and climate change-related projects, including adaptation and mitigation. This includes $200 billion for investments to revolutionize America’s transportation system, invest in renewable energy sources, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, plus $150 billion to make America’s electric grid more reliable, secure, efficient and resilient.

 

Governor Jay Inslee

From the Governor’s 100% Clean Energy for America Plan:

  • Establishing refundable tax incentives to speed the development and deployment of clean technologies – including renewable electricity, energy storage, smart grid and advanced transmission and distribution, as well as other zero-emission technologies.
  • Using federal lands, offshore waters and facilities to deploy more renewable energy and transmission. The federal government can accelerate renewable energy deployment on public lands that contain enormous resources –especially in the West. For example, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Dry Lake Solar Energy Zone in Clark County, Nev. now hosts 179 MW of solar power in job-creating clean energy projects that were developed more than twice as fast as traditional projects on public lands. Meanwhile, harnessing just 1% of our nation’s technical offshore wind energy resource potential could power more than 6 million American homes.
  • Expanding long-distance interstate and interregional transmission of clean electricity through expedited planning, broad cost allocation, and negotiated siting with state authorities, Regional Transmission Organizations (RTOs), the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the Department of Energy. And providing federal financing for anticipatory construction of transmission capacity to areas with significant queues of clean-energy generation capacity awaiting transmission.
  • Enhancing utilization of existing transmission and distribution assets through Dynamic Line Ratings, demand-response, new sensors and controls, battery storage, and resilient distributed energy resources.

 

Senator Amy Klobuchar

From Senator Klobuchar’s Combating Climate Change:

Providing new economic and environmental opportunities in rural America by investing in rural renewable energy development and by passing and signing into law Senator Klobuchar’s bipartisan Expanding Access to Sustainable Energy (EASE) Act to provide rural electric cooperatives access to resources and expertise to overcome the barriers to renewable energy storage and grid improvements.

 

Tom Steyer

From Tom Steyer’s Framework for a Justice-Centered Climate Plan:

Every decision our government makes about infrastructure, purchasing, contracting, and investing taxpayer dollars must be aligned with achieving our climate targets, protecting workers’ right to unionize, growing good jobs, and helping Americans build inclusive and prosperous communities. We have one chance to invest in the infrastructure that will serve our country in a warmer world, help us limit the effects of climate change, and showcase American leadership. Both government funding and private capital must play a major role. We must establish clear goals and rules for how investments flow to avoid the same decisions that have created extreme inequality and unjust environmental degradation.

To ensure we are building a fair and sustainable country equipped for the 21st century, my plan will:

Dedicate $2 trillion in federal funding over ten years, mobilizing trillions more in private capital, to long-overdue investments in America’s infrastructure, including investments in clean transportation, water, operational systems, the energy grid, farms and rural development, building retrofits, maintenance, affordable housing, universal broadband, and more.

 

Senator Elizabeth Warren

From Senator Warren’s My Plan for 100% Clean Energy:

Electricity consumption contributes about one third of all carbon pollution today — but the good news is that renewables are the fastest growing source of electricity generation. Renewable energy continues to drop in cost, and in many parts of the world it’s already cheaper than fossil fuels, even without subsidies. And states — including my home state of Massachusetts and Governor Inslee’s home state of Washington — are already leading the way in adoption. While technical challenges around transmission and storage remain, increasing renewable energy and investments in smart grids and advanced distribution can improve reliability, bring down costs, and open up new economic opportunities. Achieving 100% clean electricity will also help us to decarbonize our transportation and buildings. And we will put in place project labor agreements and other protections to ensure that the jobs created are union jobs with accompanying pay scales and benefits.

As president, I’ll work to rapidly achieve 100% clean, renewable and zero-emission energy in electricity generation. To do that, we will:

Set high standards for utilities nationwide. My administration will require utilities to achieve 100% carbon-neutral power by 2030, with strong interim targets along the way, and to achieve all-clean, renewable, and zero-emission energy in electricity generation by 2035. We’ll also establish regulations to retire coal power within a decade, while ensuring that we do not leave coal communities behind by funding health care and pensions for miners.

Create a Federal Renewable Energy Commission. I’ll work with Congress to overhaul the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which is tasked with regulating the U.S. electrical grid, replacing it instead with a Federal Renewable Energy Commission. The revised commission’s mission will be to reduce greenhouse gas pollution — and we’ll slam shut the revolving door with industry to ensure it is responsive not to fossil fuel interests but to our communities.

Use the strength of federal investment and policy to accelerate the transition. I’ll require federal agencies to achieve 100% clean energy in their domestic power purchases by the end of my first term. And as I committed in my Public Lands plan, I’ll set a goal of providing 10% of our overall electricity generation from renewable sources offshore or on public lands — nearly ten times what we are currently generating.

Provide federal subsidies to speed clean energy adoption. We’ll expand existing federal energy financing programs, like the Department of Energy’s Loan Guarantee Program and the Rural Utilities Service, including by providing direct grants for clean energy projects. We’ll extend programs to provide grants in lieu of tax credits, establish refundable tax incentives to speed utilities’ deployment of existing smart grid and advanced transmission technologies, and work with utilities to increase on-bill investment in energy efficiency solutions, including by subsidizing those investments for low-income communities. And we’ll implement community workforce and project-labor agreements to ensure that the jobs created by these investments are good, union jobs, with prevailing wages determined through collective bargaining.

Expand interstate and regional coordination. To maximize efficiency of the grid, I’ll provide incentives to expedite planning and siting of long-distance and inter-state transmission of clean electricity. We’ll prioritize areas with significant queues of clean-energy generation capacity awaiting transmission. We’ll provide dedicated support for the four Power Marketing Administrations, the Tennessee Valley Authority, and the Appalachian Regional Commission to help them build publicly-owned clean energy assets and deploy clean power to help communities transition off fossil fuels. And we’ll expand investments in smart energy storage solutions and cybersecurity for the grid.

 

Marianne Williamson

From Marianne Williamson’s The Issues: Climate Crisis:

Modernize our power grids immediately to pave the way for a dramatic increase in renewable energy sources. The electric power sector should be de-carbonized sooner than the rest of the economy – by 2040. Each state will be required to adopt a renewable portfolio standard, which would start at the level of renewable electricity supplies in that state in 2020, and taper up to 100% by 2040. Electricity suppliers would be fined if they fall behind each year’s target.

 

Andrew Yang

From Andrew Yang’s Grid Modernization Race to the Top:

Much of our electrical energy infrastructure is old, outdated, insecure, and far too dependent on dirty fossil fuels. Without renewed investment in new, cleaner assets and innovative management practices, our energy costs will become increasingly high and environmentally destructive.

We need to create an economic drive for utilities to invest in updating their infrastructure while motivating innovation. We can do this with a “Race to the Top”-type competition where utilities compete to enact certain reforms and the winners receive federal monies to reduce the capital costs of their investment.

Investor-owned utilities and municipal utilities & co-operatives would compete in two separate categories for a pool of $5 billion dollars each. These utilities would be given two years to enact certain reforms or hit certain targets, with points being awarded for achieving the goals based on a schedule of points. Off-schedule points would be awarded by industry experts for innovation that achieves similar goals to the prescribed methods. A points floor would be set, and anyone above that floor would receive awards from the central pool proportional to their points.

Reforms and criteria would include, but not be limited to:

  • Installation of smart meters
  • Free, easy access for account holders to interval data
  • Streamlined interconnection processes
  • Short interconnection processing turnarounds
  • Tariffs designed to encourage renewable systems of all sizes
  • Implementation of active or passive control standards that enable real-time management of distributed assets not under direct utility ownership
  • Methods of differentiating and optimizing the financial concerns of administration, transmission, production, and consumption, as separate grid-system functions
  • Net de-carbonization from the installation and retirement of various assets
  • Stakeholder education and outreach, including account holders, developers, and contractors
  • Robust IT security for metering and control systems
  • Demonstrating a continued interest, past the end date of the Race to the Top, in continuing to implement these changes