New renewable electricity standard bill introduced in U.S. Senate

Introduced by Senator Jeff Bingaman and sponsored by 23 other senators, the renewable electricity standard (RES) proposed calls for 15 percent of electricity to come from a combination of renewable resources and energy efficiency improvements by 2021.

U.S. Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) and Tom Udall (D-NM) on Sept. 21 introduced bipartisan legislation to create the first-ever national renewable electricity standard (RES).

Under the proposal, electric utilities would be required to produce at least 11 percent of their power from wind, solar, biomass and other renewable sources of energy; the remaining 4 percent could be achieved through energy efficiency improvements. The total of 15 percent would have to be met by 2021.

States hat have a higher RESs would not be affected by the bill. But states that have no RES or a lower one would have to comply with the 15 percent RES. Utilities selling less than 4 million MW-hr per year are exempt.

The bill has 24 sponsors, from both parties, many from states in the U.S. Midwest where many wind farms are being located.

In a conference call hosted by the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA, Washington, D.C.) on Sept. 21, AWEA CEO Denise Bode stressed the importance of a national RES to provide market stability for manufacturers of wind turbines and developers of wind farms. Bode noted particularly that a lack of national RES in the U.S. is a competitive disadvantage and signals to wind companies that the country is not serious about its desire to develop alternative energy sources. She also contends that it encourages developing countries like China to step in and take wind business away from the U.S. market.

"Shifting our country toward home-grown renewable energy will create jobs and help reduce carbon pollution. I believe there is strong support for this bipartisan bill and I hope we can pass it through Congress in the coming weeks," said Bingaman, who chairs the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and has for years pressed for passage of legislation that would require utilities to produce a portion of their electricity through renewable sources.

"A national RES has been a top priority for me going back to my time as a member of the House of Representatives. I believe this bill represents our best chance to get America running on homegrown energy in 2010," Udall said. "This bill will create jobs and help position the United States as a world leader in renewable energy manufacturing. I commend Senator Bingaman for his leadership on this issue, and I am pleased to be part of a bipartisan effort to enact a national RES this Congress."

The question at this point is whether or not Bingaman can garner the 60 votes needed to pass the bill, and whether that vote will occur before or after the U.S. mid-term elections in early November.

View text of the bill by visiting thomas.loc.gov and search bill number S 3813.