House passes climate bill with renewables standard including hydro

The U.S. House approved climate change legislation June 26, 2009, including a renewable electricity standard that would require utilities to increase the amount of power they obtain from renewable energy sources including some hydropower and ocean energy.

The Democrat-controlled House passed the climate change bill, with a controversial “cap and trade” program to stem carbon emissions, by a narrow 219-212. Only eight Republicans joined majority Democrats voting for the bill, while 44 Democrats voted against it.

Climate change legislation still must get through the Senate, which is expected to propose its own version, with uncertain prospects. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said he hoped the Senate could pass a bill "this fall." Reid previously said he hoped to combine climate legislation with Senate energy measures. However, no major climate legislation has been introduced in the Senate.

The House bill would require large U.S. companies, including utilities, oil refiners, and manufacturers to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases associated with global warming by 17 percent by 2020 and 83 percent by 2050, from 2005 levels. At the core of the bill is a cap and trade program under which the government would issue a declining number of pollution permits to companies, which could sell those permits to each other as needed.

Republicans said the bill would neither effectively help the environment nor improve an economy reeling from a deep recession. House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, called the measure "the biggest job-killing bill that has ever been on the floor of the House of Representatives."

Some hydro, marine, hydrokinetic included in renewables standard

The House Energy and Commerce Committee voted 33-25 on May 21 to advance the bill, labeled the American Clean Energy and Security Act. (HydroWorld 5/31/09) The bill includes a clean energy title that promotes renewable sources of energy, carbon capture and sequestration, and a “smart” electricity transmission grid.

Included in the title is a “Combined Efficiency and Renewable Electricity Standard.” As endorsed by the committee, the renewable electricity standard -- sometimes called a renewables portfolio standard -- requires retail electricity suppliers that sell more than 4 million megawatt-hours per year to meet a percentage of their load from renewable energy sources or from energy savings.

The combined renewable energy and electricity savings requirement begins at 6 percent in 2012 and gradually increases to 20 percent in 2020. Up to a fourth of the 20 percent requirement may be met by electricity savings. However, upon petition by a state governor, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission would be authorized to increase the proportion of compliance met by electricity savings within the particular state, up to 8 percent from savings.

The legislation defines eligible renewable energy sources to include incremental hydropower, marine and other hydrokinetic energy, and wind, biomass, solar, and geothermal sources.

Incremental hydropower is defined as improvements since Jan. 1, 1992, to existing hydro projects and addition since that date of new generating facilities to existing water resources projects. Such projects also must be licensed or exempted by FERC and be “operated so that the water surface elevation at any given location and time that would have occurred in the absence of the hydroelectric project is maintained, subject to any license or exemption requirements that require changes in water surface elevation for the purpose of improving the environmental quality of the affected waterway.”

The bill also would allow utilities to exclude existing hydropower from their base amount of electricity when calculating the amount of renewable energy they must obtain.

Senate renewables standard includes hydropower

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee endorsed, 15-8, a broad energy package June 17 that would require utilities to increase the amount of power they obtain from renewable energy sources including some hydro and ocean energy. (HydroWorld 6/17/09)

The Senate committee package would establish a renewable electricity standard, create an independent agency to foster clean energy investments, and give the federal government authority to expand the nation’s transmission grid over state objections. It also could advance oil drilling off Florida’s Gulf Coast and would create an emergency reserve of 30 million barrels of petroleum.

As it emerged from committee, the package would require firms that sell more than 4 million megawatt-hours a year to obtain a portion of their electric supply from new renewable energy resources. They would be required to deliver the following percentages of renewable energy: 3 percent from 2011-2013, 6 percent from 2014-2016, 9 percent from 2017-2018, 12 percent from 2019-2020, and 15 percent from 2021-2039.

The legislation defines eligible renewable energy sources to include incremental hydropower, ocean and other hydrokinetic energy, and wind, biomass, solar, geothermal, and landfill gas sources.

Incremental hydropower is defined as improvements to existing hydro projects and addition of new generating facilities to existing water resources projects. The bill also would allow utilities to exclude existing hydropower from their base amount of electricity when calculating the amount of renewable energy they must obtain. Utilities also could meet about a quarter of their renewables requirements through energy efficiency gains.

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