Clean energy plays central role in “Building Back Better”

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UPDATE 10/15/2021: While negotiations continue on a budget reconciliation package in Washington DC, there are increasingly dire signals that the Clean Electricity Payment Program is in serious trouble. As the centerpiece of President Biden’s climate agenda, failure to complete a deal that includes a fully funded CEPP would be a potentially catastrophic blow to our chances of reaching net-zero carbon emissions by mid-century. If you haven’t already done so, please take action now and tell our leaders in Washington that you stand behind the CEPP and bold climate action!

In late August, Fresh Energy joined with 34 other leading Minnesota organizations to call on Minnesota’s congressional delegation to actively support bold Federal action on climate. Of course, the timing of this effort was no accident; with debate in Congress heating up around the forthcoming budget reconciliation package—“Build Back Better Act”— there has never been a better or more urgent opportunity for national action.  

The centerpiece of recent climate conversations in Congress is a policy called the Clean Electricity Performance Program (CEPP), also sometimes referred to as a “Clean Electricity Standard.” Here’s how it works: The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) would establish a new payment program for the years 2023-2030. DOE would provide payments to electric utilities based on how much electricity the utility is providing to customers from clean sources of generation. In order to continue qualifying for payments, a utility will need to increase its clean electricity supply by at least 4% from one year to the next. Conversely, a utility that fails to meet this threshold would be assessed a fee based on how far short of the 4% target the utility’s generation was for the year.  

This policy puts the United States on a path to fully decarbonize the electric utility sector by 2035, a goal held by the Biden Administration.  

Minnesota has a lot to gain here. Already a regional leader in clean energy deployment, Minnesota is home to a robust community of wind and solar developers and installers. With passage of the CEPP, it is likely that utility demand for new clean renewable energy will spike nationally—creating an unprecedented opportunity for Minnesota’s existing clean energy firms to rapidly grow and develop new markets. Moreover, most Minnesota utilities already have new clean energy investments planned—the CEPP will facilitate utilities doing what they already are planning to do, except faster and at lower cost to Minnesota utility customers.  

So, lower utility bills, turbo-charged economic development and significant clean energy job growth—sounds like an easy one, right? Unfortunately, it’s going to be a tough fight.  

With the United States Senate split 50/50 and partisanship as strident as ever, there is no margin for error as the CEPP’s lead author, U.S. Senator Tina Smith (D-MN) navigates the policy through the budget reconciliation process. Of course, fossil fuel interests are rallying to oppose the CEPP as well. You can help advance this critical climate policy by contacting your member of Congress and telling them you support the Clean Electricity Performance Program.  

On September 13 and 14, the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce held its markup of the Build Back Better Act. Fresh Energy was grateful that Minnesota’s only representative on the committee, Rep. Angie Craig (MN-2), voted in favor of the CEPP and the overall package. Rep. Craig recognized the incredible opportunity that a fully implemented CEPP would mean for Minnesota—and Fresh Energy encourages the entire Minnesota delegation to follow suit when the bill is presented to the full House for a final vote. Stay tuned for updates!