Senate Dems introduce federal renewable energy standard 

Source: Nick Juliano, E&E reporter • Posted: Wednesday, May 13, 2015

A group of Senate Democrats is pushing legislation to require electric utilities to deliver 30 percent of their supply from renewable sources by 2030.

The renewable energy standard (RES) bill introduced yesterday updates to a policy proposal that clean energy advocates have pushed for years. It would impose at the federal level the same type of mandate that currently exists in dozens of states.

Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.), the bill’s lead sponsor, said today he would like to see the measure included in a broader energy bill being assembled by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), who chairs the Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

“A national Renewable Electricity Standard will help slow utility rate increases and boost private investment in states like New Mexico — all while combatting climate change,” Udall said in a statement. “Investing in homegrown clean energy jobs just makes sense, and that’s why I’m continuing my fight for a national RES. More than half the states — including New Mexico — have widely successful RES policies, and it’s time to go all in. I’ve long pushed for a ‘do it all, do it right’ energy policy, and a RES will help us get there.”

RES proposals have attracted bipartisan support in the past. A bipartisan energy bill that ENR passed in 2009 included a 15-percent-by-2021 RES, but environmental groups at the time panned it as too weak. More recently, conservative groups such as the American Legislative Exchange Council have led attacks on state-level RES laws, although most attempts to repeal such standards have failed.

In January, Udall offered an amendment to the Keystone XL bill that would have established a 25-percent-by-2025 RES. The amendment failed 45-53, with members on both sides of the aisle breaking with their party. Republican Sens. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Susan Collins of Maine, Dean Heller of Nevada and Mark Kirk of Illinois voted for the amendment; Democratic Sens. Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Bill Nelson of Florida voted against it.

The January amendment started with a target of 8.5 percent renewable energy in 2015 and 9.5 percent in 2016; the standalone bill’s targets start at 7.5 percent in 2015 and 8 percent the following year. Existing hydropower is not included in the figures. Non-hydro renewable power contributed about 7 percent of U.S. energy generation in 2014, according to the Energy Information Administration, the independent statistical arm of the Department of Energy.

Udall said the early-year targets were softened in his stand-alone bill with the hope of attracting more supporters, and he said he was hopeful it could attract additional support as part of a larger energy bill. The original co-sponsors are all Democrats: Sens. Edward Markey of Massachusetts, Martin Heinrich of New Mexico, Michael Bennet of Colorado, Jeff Merkley of Oregon, Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island and Mazie Hirono of Hawaii.

“If you’re combining it with something else — the export of oil or anything like that — then you could tweak it, too, to get sponsors on,” Udall said in a brief interview today.

Murkowski is expected to introduce a bill to lift the crude oil export ban later this week, but it remains to be seen whether she would include that in the broader bill. The ENR Committee will be considering nearly two-dozen bills related to energy infrastructure later this week, and a hearing next week will consider various energy supply bills. After the Memorial Day recess, the committee plans one final hearing on “accountability” propos