in Up Front
print the content item

After several unsuccessful attempts in recent years to pass a renewable energy standard (RES), Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, is resuscitating efforts that many assumed were dead in an election year.

The Clean Energy Standard Act of 2012, introduced today by Bingaman, amends the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act to include a federal clean energy standard (CES).

The legislation - co-sponsored by Sens. Ron Wyden, D-Ore.; Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.; Mark Udall, D-Colo.; Al Franken; D-Minn.; Chris Coons, D-Del.; John Kerry, D-Mass.; Shelton Whitehouse, D-R.I.; and Tom Udall, D-N.M. - is designed to encourage zero- and low-emissions energy development and innovation across the country.

This time, however, the bill does not limit the mandate to renewables like wind and solar, but includes several other low-emissions and clean energy resources such as renewable biomass, natural gas, hydropower, nuclear power or qualified waste-to-energy, as well as "clean" coal with carbon-capture technology.

Under Bingaman's proposal, beginning in 2015, large retail utilities - excluding those in Alaska and Hawaii - would be required to obtain 24% of the electricity they sell through clean energy sources, with the mandate increasing by 3% each year through 2035, resulting in what would be a doubling of clean energy by that year.

Energy generators would be rated according to their carbon emissions, with more credits being given to those that generate the fewest emissions. Because a variety of energy sources are included in the system, the market will determine the optimal mix of technologies and fuels, according to Bingaman.

Utilities would also be allowed to provide clean energy credits and/or make alternative compliance payments (ACPs) to meet the standard. Utilities that fail to meet the CES requirement would be charged a penalty of 200% of the ACP for each kilowatt-hour they sell in violation of the CES.

The federal CES would not replace or have additional authority over states' individual renewable portfolio standards.


So what's it going to cost?


The legislation is quick to point out that the CES does not require any federal funding. In fact, if any payments were to be made to the Treasury as a result of the CES, those funds would be sent back to the state where they were generated in order to fund those states' energy-efficiency initiatives.

Bingaman expects that in the first few years following the plan's implementation, most of the clean energy generated will come from high-capacity resources, such as wind power, natural gas and biomass. In time, however, the majority of the nation's energy should be produced by renewable energy, nuclear power and coal with carbon-capture technology.

According to a report from the Energy Information Administration, Bingaman's CES plan would result in a 20% reduction in harmful emissions by 2025, and a 40% emissions reduction by 2040, compared to a business-as-usual scenario. Notably, in the first decade of the program, the CES would have little to no impact on the average national electricity rate, according to the EIA report.

The legislation drew support from renewable energy developers.

"Senator Bingaman's bill provides the right incentives for the nation's electric utilities and equipment manufacturers to create good, high-paying jobs for American workers and for private capital to accelerate investment in innovative energy technologies," Lew Hay, chairman and CEO of renewable energy developer NextEra Energy, said in a statement. "The bill's market-oriented standard would allow many different types of fuel sources to be competitive, while rewarding innovation, early action, efficiency and project execution."


Hybrid Energy Innovations

Hybrid Energy Innovations 2015
Latest Top Stories

USDA Invests $1.4 Billion To Boost Rural Grids Around The Country

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced more loan guarantees for rural power companies and renewable energy firms in 21 states.


SPP Raises Concerns About EPA's Proposed Clean Power Plan

Stakeholders around the U.S. are mulling over the Environmental Protection Agency's blueprint to cut emissions from existing power plants. The Southwest Power Pool has released its assessment of the plan.


Comverge, Constellation To Merge Demand Response Businesses

The two companies have announced a deal to combine their DR operations serving commercial and industrial customers and establish a new, standalone entity.


Grid-Scale Energy Storage Continues Making Inroads

A new report from Navigant Research highlights the biggest markets and most popular technologies for grid-scale energy storage.


Demand Response And Renewables Help SDG&E Tackle Record-Breaking Heat Wave

San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) recorded peak demand records last week and relied heavily on energy conservation, as well as imported wind and solar power, to keep the lights on.

S&C Electric_id176
edf_id180