Bill introduced to establish a federal clean energy standard

By Erin Voegele | May 08, 2019

Sen. Tina Smith, D-Minn., and Rep. Ben Ray Luján, D-N.M., introduced legislation May 8 that aims to establish a federal clean energy standard (CES) that would put the U.S. on a path to net-zero electricity emissions. Several forms of bioenergy meet the bill’s definition of clean energy.

“Minnesota is a leader in finding affordable ways to reduce emissions, and I want the nation to follow our lead,” Smith said. “The bills Rep. Luján and I have introduced recognize that while states across the country have different energy mixes, we can all work toward the goal of net-zero electricity emissions by utilizing the range of effective technologies. This is about public health, our environment, and making sure that America is leading when it comes to tackling the climate crisis.”
“We cannot wait to take bold actions on climate change. The evidence, the science, and our own experiences demand an immediate response to curb emissions and protect our climate,” Luján said. “I am incredibly proud of the legislation from Senator Smith and myself that earned the support of scientists, environmental groups, labor unions, and community leaders and will put the U.S. on an immediate path toward net-zero electricity emissions.”

Information released by Smith’s office explains that the CES would require companies selling electricity to provide their customers with electricity produced from net-zero emission technologies. The bill incentivizes the development and deployment of innovative zero-emissions technologies, such as renewables paired with long-term storage, advanced nuclear reactors and carbon capture and storage.

Under the bill’s CES, sells of retail electricity must grow their share of clean electricity from a baseline set in 2019. For those with little initial deployment of clean electricity, the standard would require a 2.75 percent annual growth in clean electricity delivered to retail customers. Once a threshold of 60 percent clean electricity is met, a retail seller would be required to grow its clean electricity sales by 1.75 percent annually, under it reaches the maximum federal obligation of 90 percent clean electricity. Under the plan, small retail sellers, defined as those with less than 2 million megawatt-hours of annual retail electricity sales, must grow by 1.5 percent annually. If, in a given year, a retailer seller cannot meet its clean energy target, it can buy clean energy credits in a national market from clean energy generators or make alternative compliance payments. In 2040, the maximum requirement would increase 1 percent per year from 90 percent.

The bill defines clean energy as electric energy that is generated at a facility using renewable energy, qualified renewable biomass, hydropower, nuclear power, qualified waste-to-energy, qualified low-carbon fuels, a qualified combined-heat-and-power (CHP) system, or any other source of energy in a manner that ensures the facility does not exceed the applicable carbon intensity. Under the definition, clean energy can also be generated at a facility that captures carbon dioxide or is dispatched from a qualified energy storage system.

Links to a copy of the full-text version of the bill and a bill summary are available on Smith’s website.