Senators reveal stand-alone RES bill

By Anna Austin
Posted September 23, 2010, at 4:50 p.m. CST

A bipartisan stand-alone bill proposing a national renewable energy standard (RES) would mandate sellers of electricity to retail customers to obtain 15 percent of their energy from renewable resources by 2012.

Introduced by Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., and several others, the Renewable Electricity Promotion Act of 2010 would require electric utilities to produce at least 11 percent of their power from biomass, wind, solar and other renewable sources of energy. The remaining 4 percent could be achieved through energy efficiency improvements.

Utilities selling less than 4 million megawatt hours per year would be exempt from the requirements.

The 43-page bill is nearly identical to the RES proposed in the bipartisan American Clean Energy Leadership Act, apart from a few date changes and scoring/technical corrections.

Slated targets in the bill are 3 percent in 2012-2013, 6 percent in 2014-2016, 9 percent in 2017-18, 12 percent in 2019-2020, and 15 percent from 2021-2039.

According to Bingaman's office, the current sponsors are working to secure 60 co-sponsors so that the bill can be brought up for consideration before Congress adjourns later this year.

Currently, 29 U.S. states have an RES program. Certain states such as New Mexico that have a higher RES than the bill proposes would not be affected, but states that have no RES or a lower one would have to comply with the 15 percent RES.

Though many renewable energy groups and advocates maintain that 15 percent renewable energy by 2012 isn't an aggressive enough goal, (see many still welcome the new stand-alone bill.

Marchant Wenthworth, deputy legislative director of the Union of Concerned scientists, said that while the proposed RES is not perfect, the U.S. cannot afford to wait any longer to create a national clean energy policy. "[If passed]it would keep us in the clean energy race and begin to address the need to reduce carbon emissions from the power sector," he said.

Sean Garren, clean energy advocate for Environment America, said that while the standard is weaker than America can and should achieve, the Senate must pass the bill quickly to deliver to the entire country the benefits that states with standards are already enjoying.

Biomass Power Association President Bob Cleaves emphasized the bill's job generating capabilities. "The RES would help create clean energy jobs in every state in the union, including in the Southeast, where there is enormous potential for biomass industry growth," he said.

A study released by Navigant Consulting Inc. earlier this year found that a 25 percent by 2025 national RES, which is what the majority of the renewable energy industry is pushing for, would result in 274,000 more renewable energy jobs over no national RES policy. This additional employment is equivalent to 2.36 million additional job years by 2025, according to the study.