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Clean Energy Questions for 2020

It is the start of a new year, a new decade. Here are five questions that the Council is thinking about for 2020.


1) Will the 2020 Election Impede or Advance the Progress of Clean Energy?

The upcoming Presidential election in November will no doubt have an impact on policy action in Washington this year. Political questions in this area include:

  • How will the Democratic primaries and then presidential candidates address energy and climate policy, trade, economic growth, jobs and workforce development?
  • Will election year partisanship impact congressional action on budget, tax, energy and climate change legislation?  


2) Is Substantial Legislative Action Possible in Congress?

Against the political backdrop of impeachment and the November election, the BCSE is keeping a close eye on legislative items that will or could move in 2020. Possible bills that the BCSE is watching include:

  • Surface Transportation Legislation – authorization to fund surface transportation projects is set to expire in September 2020, and the Highway Trust Fund that pays for highway construction will run out of money in 2022 without a new infusion of cash. This bill, which includes a climate change title and authorization for alternative fueled vehicle refueling infrastructure, is expected to be one of the first pieces of legislation taken up by the Senate after the impeachment trial. The House of Representatives is set to reveal its legislative approach soon. 
  • Energy and Climate Change Legislation – the House Energy and Commerce Committee has announced plans to unveil this month a comprehensive climate change bill to achieve a 100 percent net clean energy economy by 2050. The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee intends to move forward with an energy and climate bill that would start with 52 pieces of energy legislation that have been reported from the Committee. Can these pieces of legislation pass their respective chambers, and if so, how will they be merged and enacted into law?
  • Federal budget –Clean energy programs received a plus up in the omnibus FY2020 appropriations bill - will this trend continue?
  • Tax policy– Clean energy tax credits will be on the docket again this year, as only a short-term extension was passed at the end of 2019. Possible legislation includes the currently proposed GREEN Act in the House.


3) Will the Call for Transmission and Grid Modernization be Heeded?

The need for new transmission and grid modernization has long been evident but is gaining increased attention as Congress begins looking at ways to address climate change and energy infrastructure. Areas that the BCSE is thinking about include:

  • To move larger amounts of renewable energy to load centers, investment in transmission modernization, efficiency and build will be needed – especially as state policies call for increasing amounts of renewable energy over the next ten to thirty years.
  • Planning processes that are clear, predictable and timely are needed. The scope and frequency of planning processes vary throughout the country and regions.
  • Policymaker education is important to explain why transmission policies are needed and which policies would be most impactful to enable transmission investment – for modernization, efficiency and construction.


4) Will Collaboration Among States Continue to Be Enough to Drive Down Emissions?

Individual state policy decisions are already advancing the progress of clean energy. In addition to keeping a close eye on more aggressive climate and energy policy actions in individual states, the Council is watching collaborative efforts among states, including:

  • The Transportation and Climate Initiative is a new regional collaboration of 13 Northeast and Mid-Atlantic jurisdictions that seeks to develop the clean energy economy, improve transportation, and reduce carbon emissions in the transportation sector.
  • The work of the U.S. Climate Alliance, which brings together 24 Governors committed to climate action, and the peer-network of Climate Mayors.


5) Will There Be Increased Consensus or Divergence on International Climate Change Action, Trade?

Key moments lie ahead in 2020 for the implementation of the Paris Agreement, and U.S. Administration decisions may impact the position of U.S. clean energy companies in the global economy. International questions the Council is pondering include:

  • At COP 26 in Glasgow, Scotland in November, the U.S. will have completed its formal withdrawal from the Paris Agreement. At the same time, countries are expected to finalize the rules for carbon trading and deliver strengthened national commitments on climate change. Will the call to action from the scientific community on climate change and the general public be heeded by governments? How can public-private partnerships enable governments to do more?
  • What role will trade policies and decisions, including existing tariffs, have on the growth of U.S. clean energy industries, and how will trade topics interface with climate policies?