President Biden orders 100% carbon-free electricity purchases across federal operations by 2030

By Kelsey Misbrener | December 8, 2021

On Dec. 8, President Biden signed an executive order that demonstrates how the United States will leverage its scale and procurement power to lead by example in tackling the climate crisis. The executive order will reduce emissions across federal operations, invest in American clean energy industries and manufacturing, and create clean, healthy and resilient communities. The President is building on his whole-of-government effort to tackle the climate crisis in a way that creates well-paying jobs, grows industries and makes the country more economically competitive.

The President’s executive order directs the federal government to use its scale and procurement power to achieve five ambitious goals:

  • 100% carbon pollution-free electricity (CFE) by 2030, at least half of which will be locally supplied clean energy to meet 24/7 demand;
  • 100% zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) acquisitions by 2035, including 100% zero-emission light-duty vehicle acquisitions by 2027;
  • Net-zero emissions from federal procurement no later than 2050, including a Buy Clean policy to promote use of construction materials with lower embodied emissions;
  • A net-zero emissions building portfolio by 2045, including a 50% emissions reduction by 2032; and
  • Net-zero emissions from overall federal operations by 2050, including a 65% emissions reduction by 2030.

In addition to the five new commitments that form the pillars of today’s executive action, the President also directed the federal government to orient its procurement and operations efforts in line with the following principles and goals:

  • Achieving climate resilient infrastructure and operations;
  • Building a climate- and sustainability-focused workforce;
  • Advancing environmental justice and equity;
  • Prioritizing the purchase of sustainable products, such as products without added perfluoroalkyl or polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS); and
  • Accelerating progress through domestic and international partnerships.

Today’s executive action is a part of the President’s broader commitment to increasing investments in America’s manufacturing industries and workers to build back the country better. By transforming how the federal government builds, buys, and manages its assets and operations, the federal government will support the growth of America’s clean energy and clean technology industries, while accelerating America’s progress toward achieving a carbon pollution-free electricity sector by 2035.

The Center for Biological Diversity was not satisfied by this long-term goal.

“2050 is an extremely weak goal for the federal government to free itself from climate-heating pollution. It ignores existing technology and adds decades to GSA’s own commitment to 100% renewable energy by 2025. This is like a teenager promising to clean their room in 30 years. We need action now,” said Bill Snape, senior counsel at the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), in a statement.

CBD recently filed a petition asking the Administrator of the General Services Administration (GSA) to issue a rule committing the federal real estate portfolio to 100% renewable electricity sources by 2025. This comes after GSA itself announced on Earth Day 2021 that it was committed to 100% renewable electricity sources for the federal real estate portfolio by 2025.

The Natural Resources Defense Council conversely had a positive reaction to the order.

“The federal government is the largest customer in the world. This aligns the government’s enormous buying power with the nation’s climate goals. Shifting to clean energy — in federal buildings, vehicles and power purchases — and using clean building materials for infrastructure projects will speed the transition to a low-carbon economy. It will help scale up efficiency and renewable power. And it twins with the climate investments embodied in the Build Back Better Act to set the country on the path to achieve the carbon reductions we need,” said John Bowman, managing director of government affairs at NRDC, in a statement.

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