Renewable Electricity Standard Bill Introduced in U.S. Senate

Responding to intense pressure and disappointment that the Senate has been unable to pass any energy or climate legislation, a bipartisan group of U.S. Senators on Tuesday introduced a stand-alone Renewable Electricity Standard (RES) bill. 

The bill was introduced by Senators Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) and Sam Brownback (R-KS), joined by Sens. Byron Dorgan (D-ND), Susan Collins (R-ME), Tom Udall (D-NM), Mark Udall (D-CO).

Republicans have made it impossible to advance climate or energy legislation this past year.

The RES would start by only requiring utilities to get a measly 3% of electricity from renewable sources by 2013 – less than the amount of non-hydro renewable electricity being produced today!

And they don’t have to fulfill the requirement by purchasing renewable energy – they can also meet the requirement through:

  • energy efficiency improvements
  • purchasing renewable energy credits or energy efficiency credits from entities who have excess;
  • Making alternative compliance payments to the Secretary at a rate of 2.1 cents per kilowatt hour.

Payments would be made directly to states whose utilities have paid into the fund, for development of renewable resources, or to offset increases in customer’s bills.

Still, the bill has little chance at passage, according to analysts interviewed by Reuters.

According to the most recent issue of the "Electric Power Monthly" issued by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), non-hydro renewable energy sources supplied almost  4.1% of U.S. electricity in the first half of 2010. Hydropower supplied an additional 6.8%.

EIA data shows that non-hydro renewable energy sources increased 13% in the first six months of 2010 compared to the same period last year. Wind-generated electricity increased by 21.4%; electricity from solar thermal and photovoltaics rose by 16.4%; wood & other forms of biomass rose by 4.5%; and geothermal output increased by 0.8%.

Thus, since the Senate bill includes incremental hydropower, hydrokinetic, and new hydropower at existing dams as well as energy efficiency improvements among the resources – in addition to biomass, geothermal, solar, and wind – that can contribute to the RES targets, it’s obvious the 2013 target has already been surpassed by 30% or more and longer term targets are within easy reach.

Utilities would have to obtain the following percentages of their electricity from renewable energy resources.  3% for the period 2012-2013; 6% for 2014-2016; 9% for 2017-2018; 12% for 2019-2020; and 15% for 2021 to 2039.

Qualifying renewables (including distributed generators) are wind, solar, ocean, geothermal, biomass, landfill gas, incremental hydropower, hydrokinetic, new hydropower at existing dams and waste-to-energy.

With only a few date changes and a couple of scoring/technical fixes, the 43-page bill is almost identical to the RES included in the bipartisan American Clean Energy Leadership Act, S. 1462.

The 15% RES is less than the one passed by the House of Representatives a little over a year ago. And it is little better than business-as-usual scenarios, according to some analyses.

In Related News…

This year, a host of Republican Senate hopefuls are trumpeting their rejection of climate science on the campaign trail.

Read New York Times coverage at the link below.

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