Biden set to break up BBB but poised to prioritise clean energy parts of bill

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President Joe Biden during a visit to a National Renewable Energy Laboratory facility in Colorado in September. Image: NREL.

President Joe Biden believes he can win support for the energy and environmental initiatives included in his Build Back Better (BBB) Act, saying he is confident of getting “big chunks” of the US$1.75 billion legislation signed into law.

Speaking during a press conference yesterday to mark his first year in office, Biden said he has been “talking to a number of my colleagues” in Congress, adding: “I think it’s clear that we would be able to get support for the US$500-plus billion for energy and the environmental issues that are there.”

Featuring clean energy and climate investments totalling US$555 billion, BBB includes expanded and extended solar investment tax credits (ITC) and support for domestic PV manufacturers, among a host of other green initiatives.  

Questioned on whether there is anything he is confident that he can get signed into law before the midterm elections later this year, Biden said: “I’m confident we can get pieces, big chunks of the Build Back Better law signed into law.”

He added: “I think we can break the package up, get as much as we can now, and come back and fight for the rest later.”

Negotiations to get BBB passed in the Senate hit a wall late last year as key Democrat Senator Joe Manchin said he would not support the legislation, claiming it would “risk the reliability” of the US’s electric grid.

With all 50 Republican Senators opposing the package, the White House needs to secure the support of Manchin to get the legislation passed in the Senate. It would also then need to be approved by the House, where the Democrats have a narrow majority.

The White House will proceed in its talks with Manchin privately, Biden’s chief of staff Ron Klain told the Wall Street Journal.

Seen as the cornerstone of Biden’s strategy to slash the US’s greenhouse gas emissions 50-52% by 2030, BBB would scale up solar deployment as the country bids to reach a carbon pollution-free power sector by 2035.

BloombergNEF predicts that the levelised cost of electricity for new US solar projects would decline by almost half in the next decade thanks to generous policy support in BBB, while Wood Mackenzie estimates that an extension of the ITC would boost solar installs 31% in the next five years.

US-based manufacturers have thrown their weight behind the legislation, with Dan Shugar, CEO of tracker provider Nextracker, saying that renewable energy provisions included in the act are “a green light” to US solar companies to “move rapidly to increase investment in people, factories, and raw materials”.

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