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Since President Joe Biden and a new Congress took office earlier this year, federal policymakers have been working to speed up the U.S. transition to clean and renewable energy sources. One of Biden’s first actions in office was to rejoin the Paris Climate Accord, the 2016 agreement in which countries pledged to significantly reduce their CO2 emissions. The Biden Administration followed this up with aggressive carbon reduction targets and the American Jobs Plan proposal, which includes provisions to modernize the power grid, incentivize clean energy generation, and create more jobs in the energy sector. Much of Biden’s agenda builds on prior proposals like the Green New Deal, which would achieve emissions reductions and create jobs through investments in clean energy production and energy-efficient infrastructure upgrades.
The transition to renewables has taken on greater urgency in recent years with the worsening effects of climate change. Carbon emissions from non-renewable sources like coal, oil, and natural gas are one of the primary factors contributing to the warming of the atmosphere, and climate experts project that to limit warming, renewable energy must supply 70 to 85% of electricity by midcentury.
Renewable energy still represents less than a quarter of total annual electricity generation in the U.S., but the good news is that renewable energy has been responsible for a steadily increasing share of electricity generation over the past decade. Most of the upward trajectory comes from exponential growth in the production of solar and wind power. In 1990, solar power generated only 367,087 megawatt-hours of electricity, while wind power was responsible for 2,788,600 megawatt-hours. Since then, technological improvements and public investment in wind and solar helped lower costs and make them viable competitors to non-renewable sources. By 2020, solar production had reached 89,198,715 megawatt-hours, while wind produced 337,938,049 megawatt-hours of electricity.