Friday, July 20, 2007

Upcoming House Renewable Energy Standard Vote Crucial

House expected to vote on national renewable energy standard amendment in the next two weeks.


The message is the same in report after report: The U.S. needs a National Renewable Energy Standard or Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) to spur the country's renewable energy market, generate millions of new jobs over the next decade, and lower electric bills for consumers and businesses alike -- not to mention help slow the devastating impacts of global warming.

But with progress ‘sluggish' on Capitol Hill — last month's RPS amendment proposed by U.S. Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) to the Senate Energy bill was killed before it could be voted on (see previous post) — it's been left to individual states to set the standard when it comes to renewable energy initiatives (see previous post).

Currently, 23 states plus Washington, DC, have implemented an RPS or RES, many of which include solar carve-outs.

"In the absence of Federal leadership, the states have really taken the initiative on this issue," said Cliff Chen, a clean energy analyst in the Union of Concerned Scientists' California office, during Solar 2007, the American Solar Energy Society's (ASES) national conference in Cleveland, Ohio.

"But we're simply not going to get the high results and efficiency that we all desire unless we see some [long-term] federal support. ...George Bush did sign an RPS in Texas—so there is some hope," added Chen.

That hope may come in the form of another Energy bill that will be up for vote later this month on the U.S. House of Representatives floor. Although the bill currently contains no provisions for a National RPS, a proposed amendment is expected to be offered by Reps. Tom Udall (D-NM) and Todd Platts (R-PA), which is based on their bill H.R. 969 requiring utilities to increase their use of renewable energy to 20 percent by 2020.

"There are currently 120 cosponsors (out of 435 Representatives in the House) on H.R. 969. To move the RPS forward, we need more cosponsors on H.R. 969 and we need members of the House to support the Udall-Platts RPS amendment when the energy bill comes to the House floor in July," according to a legislation update issued last week by the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA).

If an amendment requiring utilities to increase their use of wind, solar and other renewable energy sources is not adopted by the House this month, stated AWEA, it will be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to secure enactment of an RPS this year.

The latest report highlighting the benefits of a national RPS was released by ASES last week. Led by energy economist Roger Bezdek, Ph.D., President of Management Information Services, Inc. in Washington, DC, key findings in the report indicate that by the year 2030 the renewable energy and energy efficiency industries could generate up to $4.5 trillion in revenue in the U.S and create upwards of 40 million new jobs.

The report clearly states, however, that these figures will only be achieved with the appropriate public policy, including a National RPS, long-term renewable energy incentives, public education and R&D. The report also notes that, combined, renewable energy industries generated 8.5 million jobs and nearly $1 trillion in revenue in the U.S in 2006.

Similarly, the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) released a report last week examining the impact of a proposed national RPS on the nation as a whole—and on 20 individual states—highlighting that a 20 percent National RES would:

  • Generate more than 185,000 renewable energy jobs nationally by 2020 in manufacturing, construction and other industries.
  • Be a $25.6 billion financial boost for farmers, ranchers, and rural landowners who produce biomass energy and/or lease their land to wind developers.
  • Save consumers $10.5 billion on energy bills through 2020 by reducing demand for fossil fuels and lowering natural gas and electricity prices. By 2030 those cumulative savings would balloon to $31.8 billion.
  • Slash global warming pollution by 223 million metric tons a year, the equivalent of taking 36.4 million cars off the road.

  • The UCS analysis reviewed the impact of the proposed national standard in 20 states: California, Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin.

    You can find a list of co-sponsors of HR 969 by searching for the bill (by bill number) at the Library of Congress' THOMAS database.

    I'd strongly encourage you to find the co-sponsors list, check if your representative is on the list and if not, give 'em hell until the vote comes up! Keep the pressure on. This is probably the last chance to pass a federal RPS this year. If the upcoming House vote fails, it's unlikely that an RPS will be considered until climate change legislation is taken up and passed, and who knows how long that process will take...

    Let's keep the pressure on and make the most of this chance to move America towards a clean energy future!

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