Sens. Udall, Heinrich introduce renewable electricity standard for utilities

Source: By Michael Coleman, Albuquerque Journal, Washington Bureau • Posted: Thursday, May 14, 2015

Sen. Tom Udall introduced legislation today that would force utilities to generate more of their power from clean sources, such as wind, energy and coal.

The New Mexico Democrat’s effort to implement a so-called “renewable electricity standard” has no Republican co-sponsors and likely faces a tough, uphill climb in the GOP-controlled Congress. Sen. Martin Heinrich, a New Mexico Democrat who sits on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, is a cosponsor.

The Udall-Heinrich bill would require utilities to generate 30 percent of their electricity from renewable energy sources by 2030. That’s a boost from the 25 percent by 2025 mandate that Udall tried to legislate in his very first Senate bill back in 2009.

The new Udall-Heinrich legislation would set an 8 percent requirement by 2016, followed “by gradual and achievable increases” thereafter to meet the 30 percent by 2030 goal, according to a joint press release from the offices of both senators. More than half of the states already have renewable generation standards with specific timelines  and target standards, and the legislation would not preempt stronger standards already implemented by states, the senators noted.

As a member of the U.S. House prior to his 2008 election to the Senate. Udall did convince the U.S. House to pass a bill that would have forced utilities to produce 15 percent of their power from clean energy sources, such as wind and solar, by the year 2020. Then-Sen. Jeff Bingaman, chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee at the time, passed similar legislation in the Senate. But the two chambers could never agree on a single requirement. Even if they had, President George W. Bush would not have signed it into law.

Critics contend such a standard would lead to higher energy prices for consumers. But Udall and Heinrich argue that it would create jobs and help confront climate change.

“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.”

“Becoming a nation that relies more on clean sources of energy is a common sense approach to slowing the devastating effects of climate change and critical if we want to create a healthier environment for future generations,” Heinrich said in a statement. “We’ve seen how successful RES policies are across the country, especially in New Mexico with our abundant sun and wind. Creating a national standard would help unleash the full potential of America’s clean, homegrown energy while putting people to work at the same time.”

Democratic Sens. Edward Markey of Massachutsetts, Michael Bennet of Colorado, Jeff Merkley of Oregon, Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island and Mazie K. Hirono of Hawaii are also co-sponsors.