Senators Push for a Renewable Energy Standard

by | Jul 27, 2010

Although Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid said he wouldn’t include a renewable energy standard (RES) in his energy bill, which mandates that a certain percentage of the nation’s electricity come from renewable energy sources, some Democrats and a Republic senator said they are open to including a RES, reports Time’s ecocentric blog.

Nearly half the Senate’s Democrats are pressuring Reid to include a national renewable electricity mandate in the energy bill, reports The Hill.

Ina letter, 27 Democrats, led by by Sens. Byron Dorgan (N.D.), Mark Udall (Colo.) and Tom Udall (N.M.), made the case for a RES, which would require many utilities to supply escalating amounts of power from sources like wind and solar energy in coming years.

The letter states: “A strong RES will give certainty to clean energy companies that are looking to invest billions of dollars in the U.S. to manufacture wind turbines, solar panels and other renewable energy components.”

One Republican supporter is Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas who calls for bipartisan support of the RES title in the Senate, although he is against any form of cap and tax in the energy bill.

In a statement, Brownback says: “As we begin consideration of comprehensive energy legislation, it’s essential we include ideas that will help drive our national energy production in the direction of more clean, renewable energy. The RES title passed out of the Energy Committee requires by 2020 that 15 percent of our country’s energy be produced using agreed upon forms of renewable energy, such as wind, solar, and biomass. Under this proposal, utilities are allowed to meet up to 4 percent of the requirement through energy efficiency.”

Former Senate Majority leader Tom Daschle, told reporters that “I know we have bipartisan support [for RES] and the 60 votes for getting it done,” reports Time’s blog.

According to a new report, “Renewable Energy in the South,” released by researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology and Duke University, a RES can be an economic boon to the South, and help drive renewable energy growth across the region.

The report shows that the South could generate between 20 to 30 percent of its electricity from renewable energy sources within the next 20 years, up from less than four percent today, if strong federal policies are enacted.

Study researchers say that government policies, federal and state tax incentives, government procurement policies, statewide renewable portfolio standards (RPSs), and regional carbon cap and trade programs all encourage investments in renewable electricity, but these policies are not uniformly available throughout the country.

The study indicates that while 29 states have a RPS, only four of these states are located in the South — Delaware, Maryland, North Carolina, and Texas. The South lags behind all other regions in renewable electricity, obtaining 3.7 percent of its power from renewable sources, compared to 9.5 percent for the country as a whole, according to the study.

Hydropower is the largest renewable resource in the South accounting for 53 percent of the region’s renewable electricity, followed by wind power, which is the second largest renewable source of electricity in the U.S. and in the South, with Texas and Oklahoma as the most significant generators of wind power.

Biomass from wood and waste is the third largest renewable source of electricity both in the U.S. and the South. While Florida produces the largest quantity of biopower, other southern states including Virginia, Maryland and the Carolinas have significant quantities, according to the study. However, no state in the South produces more than 0.5 TBtu of geothermal or solar/PV electricity.

The report shows that if a 25 percent (by 2025) federal RES is enacted, the amount of electricity supplied by power companies from renewable sources could increase more than 250 percent above the level expected in 2030 if no new federal renewables policies were enacted.

The report also suggests that electricity produced by end-users, such as households and businesses using small-scale solar electric and heating facilities, also would benefit from federal policies and could supply a substantial portion of the region’s renewable electricity.

As an example, cited in the report, under a 25 percent RES, renewable electricity supplied by utilities and end-users could increase by 154 percent. Carbon pricing policy could lead to a 266 percent increase above the total level of renewable electricity expected in the absence of federal policy changes, according to researchers.

The study also finds that renewable sources could help reduce electricity emissions in the South in 2030 between 7 percent based on the “Expanded Renewables” scenario and 55 percent in the “Carbon Constrained Future.”

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