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Clean Energy: PEOTUS Biden lives in a different world than PEOTUS Obama did

image credit: Breakthrough Institute
Adam Siegel's picture
Partner , GESN/ITA

Adam Siegel is an entrepreneurial analyst working at the intersection of energy, climate, national security, and business affairs. He has worked with/for government agencies, think tanks...

  • Member since 2013
  • 121 items added with 33,285 views
  • Dec 8, 2020

President Elect (PEOTUS) Joe Biden lives in a far different world than PEOTUS Obama did across many arenas. When it comes to clean energy and climate action opportunities, there are some rather stark — and encouraging — differences between the two eras.

  • Twelve years ago, PEOTUS Obama faced a massively devastated economy with serious challenges in recovery. A core part of the recovery efforts (some $90B) sensibly focused on clean-energy arenas, much of this foundational work.
  • In 2020, PEOTUS Biden faces a massively devastated economy with serious challenges ahead toward recovery. A core part of the Biden-Harris Administration recovery effort, to build back better, will build on the Obama-Biden Administration (and global) clean-energy foundational work.

In 2008, those advocating for rapid clean-energy investments and deployments had to be creative in accounting (seeking fully-burdened analysis (including health implications, job creation, climate risks)) as part of the advocacy efforts. In 2020, clean-energy options are ever more clearly cost competitive with fossil-foolish options — even without considering pollution and other costs from exploiting and burning fossil fuels. These a few graphics make clear how different 2020 is from 2008.


    Another look at the dramatic plunging of wind and solar costs as their installed capacity grew

    According to Lazard,

    • in 2009, onshore wind was an expensive electricity option and solar PV was an exorbitantly (literally off the charts in this case) electricity options.
    • By 2019, both onshore wind and solar PV were less expensive than any other electricity option.

    Of course, it isn't just wind and solar pv.

    When it comes to batteries …

    As Jonathan Foley, the director of Project Drawdown, reminds, this ‘got so cheap, so fast’ is happening across many clean-energy domains (efficiency, generation, data for better management, …).

    To give credit where credit is due, a Zeke Hausfather tweet sparked this post:


    Looking at Zeke’s tweet, at that simple graphic, really struck home even though the numbers and trends it points to are far from ‘news’ (especially to informed people like the members of this community).


    In 2007, Google began the RE<C initiative.

    Renewable Energy Cheaper than Coal (RE<C) initiative through as an effort to drive down the cost of renewable energy.

    Many (most?) viewed RE<C as a quixotic and potentially unrealistic quest in the near-term, seeing a need for pricing pollution as the most critical tool since renewables were seen as potentially never being ‘as cheap’ as polluting fuel usage where the pollution wasn’t counted in the financial transactions. While Google walked away from RE<C after a few years (leaving this to others), that RE<C vision was met for much of the world within about a decade and is a more powerfully true equation with every passing day. And, as the Lazard graphic above makes clear, it is RE<C, RE<O (oil), RE<FG (fossil gas), and, increasingly, just RE<FF (Renewable energy at a lower cost than fossil fuels).

    PEOTUS Obama lived in a world where RE<C / RE<O, RE<FG, RE<FF was an aspirational vision.

    PEOTUS Biden lives in a world where this is reality.

    Matt Chester's picture
    Matt Chester on Dec 8, 2020

    4 years is a long time in the scale of speed of the utility industry today-- even more if you're comparing Biden today to Obama/Biden in 2008. Plenty of reasons the Biden Administration won't just be a de facto 3rd Obama term when it comes to energy issues

    Adam Siegel's picture
    Adam Siegel on Apr 21, 2021


    1. Absolutely. 4 years is a long time w/ the rapidity of change.

    2. Good to show, obviously I think based on this post, clarity of how radically different a world it is -- especially to those who aren't focused on energy issues. 

    3. If you actually look at how some people talk (and, well, thus think), there are sometimes words/concepts that would have fit in well with 2008 that really have become OBE. (Thus, value/potential importance of [2].)


    PS: comment originally from 8 Dec 2020. Typo correction 21 Apr 21.

    Adam Siegel's picture
    Thank Adam for the Post!
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