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Solar News

Proposed National Renewable Energy Standard Introduced in the Senate



Yesterday, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Sen. Tim Johnson (D-SD) introduced legislation that would establish renewable energy and energy efficiency standards, as well as incentives for developing biofuels and biofuel infrastructure, and targets for the availability of advanced vehicle technologies, Solar Industry Magazine reported.

The bill, called the Securing America's Future with Energy and Sustainable Technology Act of 2010, establishes a renewable electricity standard (RES) of 25% by 2025 and an energy efficiency resource standard of 1% per year. 

Recent studies indicate that the renewable electricity standard in the bill could create more than 250,000 new jobs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent in 2020, Sen. Klobuchar's office stated in a press release.  Additionally, The American Council for Energy Efficiency estimates that the national energy efficiency resource standard in the bill would create energy bill savings of $168.6 billion by 2020, enough energy to power approximately one-third of all households in the United States. 

Proponents of the SAFEST Act believe that it may be folded into the energy and climate bill now being assembled by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), which looks to feature a cap on greenhouse gases emitted by electrical utilities.  The Majority Leader's office hopes to roll out the new legislation the week of July 26, reports The Washington Independent, leaving just a week to bring it to a vote before the Senate's August recess.

However, Democrats may need to drop the cap altogether if they want to pass a national renewable energy standard.  A Green Tech Media article reports:

"There is bipartisan support both on the Senate and House sides to pass a Renewable Energy Standard [RES] to create long-term growth and to also extend the grant-in-lieu of the ITC program to maintain last year's expansion," [Acciona Energy North America CFO Susan] Nickey said. But, she stressed, only if the administration and the Democratic leadership forego action on greenhouse gas emissions.

Environmental groups, meanwhile, would love to see Congress pass a RES, but perhaps not if it means giving up on the climate change provisions of the bill.  They are concerned that an energy-only bill would include more incentives for nonrenewable energy industries and ultimately worsen carbon emissions. 

"A bundle of energy policies alone cannot accomplish the three-fold task of curbing pollution, creating jobs, [and] cutting our dependence on foreign oil," David Doniger of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) told Green Tech Media.  "An integrated bill will reduce global warming pollution, while a piecemeal 'energy only' bill could make carbon emissions worse." 

An energy-only bill would not guarantee a RES as strong as the one proposed in the Klobuchar-Johnson legislation, either.  The energy bill passed by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee last June, for example, had just a 15% renewable energy requirement.