President Biden on Wednesday signed a sweeping executive order (EO) to put the federal government on a path to consuming 100% carbon pollution-free electricity on a net annual basis by 2030. The EO also directs the government to buy 100% zero-emission vehicles by 2035.

President Biden

The EO does not close the door to fossil fuel power generation, provided that the resulting carbon emissions are captured. The order is part of a larger mandate by the Biden administration for the United States to achieve a carbon pollution-free power sector by 2035 and a carbon-neutral economy by 2050.

“As the single largest land owner, energy consumer, and employer in the nation, the federal government can catalyze private sector investment and expand the economy and American industry by transforming how we build, buy, and manage electricity,” President Biden said. 

“We also must build on past progress and pursue new strategies to improve the nation’s preparedness and resilience to the effects of a changing climate, including advancing the federal government’s strategic planning, governance, financial management, and procurement to ensure climate resilient operations.”

‘24/7’ Carbon-Neutral Sources

The EO stipulates that 50% of the government’s power consumption must come from “24/7” clean sources by 2030, defined as “carbon pollution-free electricity procured to match actual electricity  consumption on an hourly basis and produced within the same regional grid where the energy is consumed…” 

The carbon pollution-free electricity is defined as including “marine energy, solar, wind, hydrokinetic (including tidal, wave, current, and thermal), geothermal, hydroelectric, nuclear, renewably sourced hydrogen and electrical energy generation from fossil resources to the extent there is active capture and storage of carbon dioxide emissions.” The sources must meet requirements of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Each federal agency is required under the EO to work toward the emissions-free power goal. 

“In addition, agencies shall facilitate new carbon pollution-free electricity generation and energy storage capacity by authorizing use of their real property assets, such as rooftops, parking structures and adjoining land.” The carbon-free generation and energy storage would be developed on the assets “through leases, grants, permits, or other mechanisms,” President Biden said.

As for transport, the EO mandates that light-duty vehicles procured by the government be emissions-free by 2027, a milestone on the way to achieving the 2035 target for all vehicles.

Every agency with at least 20 vehicles in its fleet is required to develop and annually update “a zero-emission fleet strategy.” 

The strategy would work toward ways to optimize fleet size and composition; deploy zero-emission vehicle refueling infrastructure and maximize using zero-emission light-, medium-, and heavy-duty vehicles where the General Services Administration offers one or more zero-emission vehicle options for that vehicle class, the EO states.

The EO also calls for each government agency to achieve “a net-zero emissions building portfolio by 2045, including a 50% emissions reduction by 2032.” In addition, it calls for a 65% reduction from 2008 levels in direct and indirect, i.e. Scope 1 and 2, greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.

Finally, the EO mandates “net-zero emissions from federal procurement, including a ‘Buy Clean’ policy.” The policy would promote the use of construction materials with lower emissions; climate-resilient infrastructure and operations, as well as a “climate- and sustainability-focused federal workforce.”

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Marty Durbin, senior vice president of policy, expressed support for the EO’s underlying goals.

“While we are still reviewing the Executive Order, we appreciate President Biden’s continued focus on tackling climate change,” Durbin said. “The most important factors for the success of ambitious climate goals are the pace of innovation and the ability of government to modernize permitting processes that will allow for technology to be developed and deployed without undue delays. 

“Enactment of the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will provide unprecedented investment for the development and deployment of clean energy technology, and government must be ready to facilitate, not slow down, needed progress.”