Power sector in 2030
Our analysis of Paris Agreement compatible pathways demonstrates that the US power sector could be fully decarbonised by 2036. This could be achieved through the phase-out of coal and gas by 2029 and 2038–2039, respectively, and a high uptake of renewable energy (including variable renewables, hydro and biomass) in the power mix to reach a share of 77–93% by 2030.
The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), passed in August 2022, includes significant support for renewable energy and storage technologies, largely through tax credits. One assessment found that the IRA could double the 2020 pace of wind capacity additions by 2025. For solar, the pace increase could be fivefold. Overall, the IRA is expected to speed up power sector emissions reductions: from previously expected 54–66% to 69–80% below 2005 levels by 2030.
While the US currently does not have a federal renewable energy target, thirty states, Washington, D.C., and three territories have adopted renewable portfolio standards (RPS), and seven states and one territory have set renewable energy goals. One study has attributed about half of all growth in the US renewable generation and capacity since 2000 to state RPS requirements. While this mechanism fosters the development of renewable energies, more stringent policies will need to be put in place to comply with the steep uptake required by 2030 to be Paris Agreement compatible.
Towards a fully decarbonised power sector
1.5°C compatible pathways show that the sector could contribute to negative emissions up to -80 gCO₂/kWh by 2050. This will be driven by the phase-out of fossil fuels and uptake of renewables, reaching 98–100% of the power mix by 2050.
President Biden’s proposed clean energy target of a “carbon-free” power sector by 2035 would be in line with the 1.5°C compatible scenarios. However, there are currently no national targets to phase out fossil fuels in the US and initial analyses find that the Inflation Reduction Act is not likely to put the US on track to decarbonise the power sector by 2035.