Senate RES proposal not aggressive enough

By Lisa Gibson | May 31, 2010
Posted July 22, 2010, at 11:41 a.m. CST

The American Clean Energy Leadership Act, a Senate counterpart to the Waxman-Markey climate bill, includes a federal renewable electricity standard (RES), but renewable energy groups, while grateful for an RES at all say it's not aggressive enough.

The bill, authored by Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., calls for 15 percent renewable electricity by 2021, including up to 4 percent from improved efficiency. While no renewable energy supporter would say it's a bad idea, most would argue we can do better. "The most important thing is to pass an RES," said Don Furman, head of external affairs for wind energy company Iberdrola Renewables, in a conference call July 22 to discuss the push and Bingaman's efforts. "But we need to strengthen it." An alliance of renewable energy organizations including the Biomass Power Association is pushing for a standard that requires 12 percent by 2014, 20 percent by 2020 and 25 percent by 2025, Furman said. "We have been working on a renewable energy standard in this country for a decade," he said.

"We are very excited about an RES for two reasons," said Bob Cleaves, president of the BPA. "It not only furthers the expansion of renewable energy in the United States, but it also is a significant job creator at a time where this country is sorely in need of economic growth." Cleaves added that he is grateful for Bingaman's bill and hopes it can be strengthened.

A federal RES would breathe life into biomass projects stalled or slowed down in the southeast, according to Paul Gilman, chief sustainability officer for waste-to-energy company Covanta Energy. "We as an industry are on the edge of competitiveness in the Southeast," he said during the conference.

An aggressive RES would give the hydropower industry a giant boost, too, according to Andrew Munro, president of the National Hydropower Association. Only one-third of the 80,000 dams in the country currently employ hydro power facilities, he cited.

According to a Navigant Consulting Inc., study released in February, an RES of 25 percent by 2025 would create 60,000 jobs in the biomass industry alone and about 274,000 across all renewable energy sectors. Read more about the study in a Biomass Magazine news article at

"A national RES does a tremendous material job of reducing carbon," Furman said. "It is a carbon bill as well and is something that has a much better chance of passing at this point in time than some of the other provisions like cap and trade." It has real legs, he said of the Bingaman bill, and a real chance at passing. "Time is short and we only have a few weeks to get this done. But we believe it's possible."