The CliffsNotes version of Biden’s infrastructure plan: What’s in it for solar + load flexibility?
After listening to unsatisfying NPR snippets and reading some summary articles on this big Biden Infrastructure bill, I finally carved out time this morning to read The American Jobs Plan for myself. All I can say is: WOW! How do I sign up to help get this thing passed?!? It will be a boon for the solar industry, energy efficiency, environmentalists, and heck, anyone who has kids, drives, or MOVES around in this country. In short, every American! We are going to clean up this country and maybe put ourselves on a path to a more stable climate before my little kids even start college (2035, to be exact).
There's a lot of infrastructure initiatives in this bill, but we'll focus on the parts that touch solar and load flexibility. The short version:
$100B for the electric grid, solar, and clean energy
$100B for public school upgrades + $12B for community college upgrades
Federal procurement of 24/7 clean power for federal buildings
Clean Energy R&D: Creation of ARPA-C and other programs
Now let's dive a little deeper into each of these.
Electric Grid, Solar, and Clean Energy
The $100B for electric grid and clean energy will fund so much more than just the 10-year extension of the solar ITC. Decarbonizing/modernizing our electricity infrastructure and creating and supporting the workforce (you and me!) that is actually going to execute these initiatives is all weaved throughout the entire bill.
The plan’s brief specifically spells out the goal of “100% carbon-pollution free power by 2035”. This time frame is way faster than previous proposals (2050 always made me yawn), and we only get there by covering our naked roofs and parking lots with solar—and by modernizing the way we use energy.
I thought the opportunity to upgrade schools might have a short pandemic window, but the Golden Semester for school retrofits may extend to 8 years of golden semesters 😊
The Biden plan calls for investing $100B in public schools and $12B in community colleges. In order to get kids back in school safely learning (and to let their parents work!), $100B will go to invest in “cutting-edge, energy efficient and electrified, resilient, and innovative school buildings.”
If 98% of buildings have less intelligence than a cell phone, then we have a long way to go to make our buildings smart and adaptable.
This quote is especially relevant for solar and load flexibility: “Under the President’s plan, better-operating school facilities will reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and also will become environments of community resilience with green space, clean air, and safe places to gather, especially during emergencies.”
That sounds a lot like a national version of Silicon Valley Clean Energy’s Innovation Onramp goal of building “smart and resilient” solar schools.
Federal Procurement of 24/7 Clean Power
Since the federal government spends more than $500B/year on goods and services, I especially appreciated this bold action of using “the federal government’s incredible purchasing power to drive clean energy deployment across the market by purchasing 24/7 clean power for federal buildings.” 24/7? Sure, that means we need a lot of different types of renewables to cover every minute of every day.
But what that REALLY means is we can’t continue to have every building turn on their HVAC at 6 AM like we do today. The loads will need to coordinate steps with real-time electricity production like coordinated dancers. It takes two to tango, and it takes load flexibility solutions like our DemandEx software to get to 24/7 clean power.
Spurring future innovation
Future innovators will benefit from the establishment of an ARPA-C and a $27 billion Clean Energy and Sustainability Accelerator meant to re-establish the US as a climate innovation leader. Biden is also asking Congress to invest in $35 billion in other climate technology breakthroughs. Extensible Energy was fortunate to begin our technology development with $1M from the DOE before we commercialized.
Prior to Extensible Energy, I spent half of my career supporting innovative clean technology startups and will attest to the huge gap in funding resources, especially for the earliest stages of clean technology development. Too many amazing technologies never see the light of day because there has been too little public sector support in the US.
Thanks, President Biden. How can we help?
Thank you for being bold and thoughtful, President Biden and team. We’re a huge fan of this plan. Mr. President, if you happen to read this, tell us how we can back you up! If your plan goes through, my next 5 years in the solar industry will move faster than my last 15 years.
For all of our solar partners and friends reading this, let’s first figure out how to help get this plan passed. Then let’s work together to live up to the $2 trillion of confidence and cash that the Biden administration wants to invest in us to build a clean-powered America!
Deepa Shinde Lounsbury is Extensible Energy’s Director of Business Development