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How Biden’s ambitious infrastructure bill will impact renewable energy

Rob Gramlich, Grid Strategies President, joins Yahoo Finance Live to break down President Biden’s ambitious infrastructure bill and its impact on renewable energy.

Video Transcript

- Let me first get your thoughts on the initiatives here that's included in the American Jobs Act. The president said he was going to go bold on the climate initiatives, and certainly this marks a huge transformation if the bill goes through in its current form.

ROB GRAMLICH: Yes, [INAUDIBLE]. Great to be here. It's an ambitious plan, but it's everything we've been hearing from the president throughout the campaign and in his early months about, really, jobs and climate going hand in hand. So this is a deployment-focused plan for clean energy and a variety of related sectors, to power transportation and heating with electricity and increasingly clean electricity.

- Rob, let's talk specifically about this national standard that the president is calling for in terms of utilities to have their energy mix. Certainly those who have been in favor of this shift have said that renewable energies are so much cheaper than they used to be, but the concern has been about the storage element of all of that. So we're talking about an ambitious plan. To what extent is the technology there to be able to scale out in the way the president is calling for?

ROB GRAMLICH: The good news now is renewable energy is very cheap and we know how to integrate it into power grids to get an overall reliable supply of power. It does require storage, as you mentioned. It also requires transmission, and those are both parts of the plan. We can get to 70%, 80%, 90% of our electricity from renewable sources as long as we have those complementary technologies.

We know how to get that far. There'll be some R&D probably necessary to develop other sources by 2035, which is the end target for the president's plan to fully reduce carbon out of the power sector.

- I want to focus on cybersecurity right now and how the nation's grid is vulnerable. We know that. We've seen some attacks around the world at various locations. I think we've been spared, mostly, any big disasters. But how big a priority is cybersecurity when it comes to the nation's grid and electric supply?

ROB GRAMLICH: Cyber security is a huge issue for all utilities around the country. They, of course, control their power systems. They have all sorts of sophisticated cyber security protections. They're not using the software that was used in other countries that were hacked, and we have good government oversight at the federal level. So there are a lot of protections in place. but at the end of the day, as everybody knows, with many systems and many attackers, we're always at risk. And I think it is something that everybody needs to be prepared for.

Local authorities always need to be prepared for the unexpected. And things can happen to the power system, as we saw in Texas, that nobody expected. And we need to be ready for things like that.

- Rob, where does this renewed focus on renewable energies leave natural gas? For so many years we have talked about natural gas as sort of this bridge fuel, although the industry would argue now that they think there is a future there alongside renewables. How do you look at that as part of the mix?

ROB GRAMLICH: Yeah, I think right now the natural gas system is the battery. It is the real battery that is there when the wind and the sun are not available, you know, at nighttime and when there's slow wind speeds. And that's how most systems are operating right now. So gas is that firm, flexible source that's there and available, and I think it will be for quite some time.

Now if we, obviously, in 15 years want to be fully carbon free, then some other source will be needed to provide that that produces no emissions. And that could be gas plants where they capture their carbon, or it could be a variety of other sources. And that's where our R&D come in, and they are also part of the jobs plan that the president just released yesterday.

- And we're seeing the government kind of step in and provide a lot of subsidies for the industry. Historically, this is something they've done. At what point in the future can the government just kind of step back and say, all right, the market's mature enough. We can let it take care of itself. Or do you not see that happening at all?

ROB GRAMLICH: There's two ways to look at that question. One is, will clean energy grow without any form of policy support? The answer is yes. The economics are so strong. Wind and solar are so cheap.

But the other way to look at it is, do we want to meet carbon and greenhouse gas emission targets and lead the world and get all the other countries, who are often bigger emitters, to do the same? And if it's the latter, then we do need some policies to accelerate the pace. And that's what this Biden plan does.