Not Dead Yet! Renewable Electricity Standard Gets Another Chance

Photo by TDR1, <a href="">via Flickr</a>.

Good news for those who have been keeping the hope alive for a renewable electricity standard this year: A bipartisan group of senators plans to announce new legislation on that front on Tuesday.

Tomorrow afternoon, Sens. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) and Sam Brownback (R-Kansas) will unveil their plan to create a national renewable energy standard at a press conference, where they’ll be joined by Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Tom Udall (D-N.M.). While Brownback is better know for strident view on abortion and the creation of human-animal chimeras, he’s been the most vocal Republican supporter of an RES in the Senate.

Hope for an RES this year dimmed after it was not included in the energy/oil spill package Harry Reid put together in July (which the Senate has yet to act on). But the announcement of stand-alone legislation—and bipartisan legislation at that—renews hope that it could be completed this year.

So far, they’re not saying exactly how much renewable energy their bill will require. The RES included in Bingaman’s previous energy bill called for utilities to draw 15 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2021. After that RES was approved in committee, the clean-energy industry complained that it was no better than the business-as-usual path. But they’ve since warmed to even the lower standard. calling it “the right RES to pass as a starting point at this moment of acute urgency.”

Based on Bingaman’s last RES effort and what the senators have indicated so far, the renewable electricity mandate in this bill will probably be on the low side. Brownback’s statement emphasized the need for a “sensible and modest renewable energy standard” to kick-start the industry. It would probably be lower than the RES the House passed in June 2009 as part of the combined climate and energy bill, which required utilities to draw 20 percent of electricity to come from renewables by 2020.

“I think that the votes are present in the Senate to pass a renewable electricity standard. I think that they are present in the House,” said Bingaman. “I think that we need to get on with figuring out what we can pass and move forward.”

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  • Kate Sheppard was a staff reporter in Mother Jones' Washington bureau from 2009 to 2013. She is now a senior reporter and the energy and environment editor at The Huffington Post. She can be reached by email at kate (dot) sheppard (at) huffingtonpost (dot) com and you can follow her on Twitter @kate_sheppard.