National Renewable Portfolio Standard Returns to Senate

Although it will go nowhere fast, two pieces of legislation have been introduced in the Senate to revive the discussion of a national Renewable Portfolio Standard in the US.

Senators Tom Udall (D-NM) and Mark Udall (D-CO) re-introduced the Renewable Energy Standard bill, which would require utilities to generate 25% of their electricity from renewable energy by 2025.

If the energy efficiency bill ever gets to the floor, they plan to attach it as an amendment. 

And Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) introduced similar legislation, the American Renewable Energy and Efficiency Act. It too requires utilities to source 25% of power from renewables by 2025. It also has an energy efficiency component, requiring electric utilities to save the equivalent of 15% of sales by 2015, and natural gas utilities to save 10% of sales.

Both aspects of the bill would be phased in, starting with a requirement for 6% of renewables by 2015, and efficiency gains of 1% in 2015. 

Importantly, the bill ensures that only beneficial forms of biomass are used to produce energy, not whole trees. It stipulates that biomass is eligible only when it results in 50% lower carbon emissions than fossil fuels over a 20-year period. 

It directs the EPA to develop a carbon accounting framework that ensures these emissions reductions from biomass. And it mandates that no biomass harvesting be allowed in old growth and other critical habitats.

The legislation would spur over $200 billion in capital investments in renewable energy technology, quadrupling US renewable energy production and creating more than 400,000 jobs, Markey says. "We can put steelworkers and ironworkers and electricians back to work building the new energy backbone for America, from Massachusetts to Montana." 

By 2025, renewable energy would supply the equivalent output of 120 coal-fired power plants.

A national standard would complement state RPS programs and "ensure the United States is not left behind by the 118 other nations that already have clean energy targets in place," Markey says. 

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