Senator sees strong support for renewables standard

Prospects appear bright for congressional passage of legislation that would require utilities to provide a portion of their electricity from renewable resources, the chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee said.

�I think that the votes are present in the Senate to pass a renewable electricity standard,� Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., the committee chairman, said. �I think that they are present in the House. I think that we need to get on with figuring out what we can pass and move forward.�

Bingaman commented on prospects for passage of a renewable electricity standard, sometimes called a renewables portfolio standard, during a hearing Feb. 10. He said during the past four Congresses, the House or the Senate passed a requirement that utilities provide a percentage of their electricity from renewable resources. However, it never has reached the president's desk. (HNN 10/1/08)

�I think that it is time that we finally pass this provision in both houses and get it to the president, for whom it is one of his highest priorities,� he said.

The Senate measure proposes a 20 percent renewables rate by 2021. Legislation in the House proposes 25 percent by 2025; that is the same rate put forward by President Obama when he was on the campaign trail. (HNN 11/14/08)

New hydropower at existing dams included

Staff for Senate Energy Committee Democrats prepared the draft legislation discussed at the committee hearing.

�It is similar as to its mechanics to the provisions that we have passed before, with some major differences,� Bingaman said. �First, the requirement is raised from 15 percent by 2020 to 20 percent by 2021. Second, the resources that can be used to comply have been expanded. Up to one-quarter of the requirement can come from energy efficiency. We also have included new hydropower at existing dams that currently do not have generation.�

The Senate proposal requires sellers of electricity to retail customers to obtain a portion of their electric supply from new renewable energy resources for the following calendar years: 2011 through 2012, 4 percent; 2013-2015, 8 percent; 2016-2018, 12 percent; 2019-2020, 16 percent; and 2021-2039, 20 percent.

Incremental hydropower and ocean wave energy are qualifying renewables. In addition, the bill would exclude utilities' existing hydropower from their base amount of electricity when calculating the amount of renewable energy they must obtain.

In the House, Reps. Edward Markey, D-Mass., and Todd Platts, R-Pa., introduced a renewables portfolio standard Feb. 4 that would ensure the U.S. is generating a quarter of its electricity from clean energy sources by 2025.

The American Renewable Energy Act includes incremental hydropower as a renewable resource, adds language for hydropower development at existing non-powered dams, and includes all hydrokinetic technologies as renewable resources. It also excludes utilities' existing hydropower from their base amount of electricity when calculating the amount of renewable energy they must obtain.

A federal renewable electricity standard would not affect most state programs, Bill Wicker, a spokesman for Senate committee Democrats, said. Twenty-eight states and the District of Columbia have renewable electricity standards. If state standards are stronger than the national standard, states could continue to use them, Wicker said. However, those states with an enforceable renewable electricity standard weaker than the national standard would be required to strengthen their standard to meet federal levels, he added.

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