Friday, August 03, 2007

Votes on House Clean Energy Bills, Renewable Energy Standard Amendment Delayed

House could take up clean energy bills and hear amendments tomorrow, or may be forced to wait until after August recess.

[From the AWEA/Wind Energy Weekly:]

A late-breaking and unrelated procedural squabble delayed a looming vote in the U.S. House of Representatives that was anticipated to occur Friday on a federal renewable electricity standard [or renewable energy standard] (RES).

As of press time, the possibility remained that the legislation could be taken up sometime during the weekend or even after Congress’s August recess. The RES is likely to be the most high-profile floor amendment to broader energy legislation expected to go to the floor. The issue is to arise in the form of an amendment offered by Reps. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Todd Platts (R-Pa.), sponsors of the leading House RES bill, H.R. 969.

After being tweaked through negotiations that took place Thursday evening, the amendment currently calls for a 15% RES by 2020 that permits utilities to achieve up to 27% of their targeted requirement through energy efficiency savings (that is, the equivalent of 4% of the 15% requirement). The latest version of the amendment also edges down the near-term goal, requiring utilities to achieve a 2.75% target in 2010, rather than the 3.75% goal set by the previous version of the amendment.

Earlier this week, in anticipation of the House vote, Udall, Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Mark Udall (D-Colo.) and other champions of renewable energy joined a diverse coalition yesterday in the U.S. Capitol to call on members of Congress to support the RES amendment.

“The vote on a renewable energy standard, which requires that a larger share of the nation’s electricity be generated from renewable sources, is a landmark referendum on the direction of the nation’s energy policy,” said Gregory Wetstone, senior director for governmental and public affairs for the American Wind Energy Association. “It’s not every day that Congress has an opportunity to reduce energy costs, promote our security, spur job creation, and reduce pollution.”

An RES is a market-based mechanism that calls for a set percentage of the nation’s electricity to be produced from renewable sources, such as wind and solar. More than 20 states have enacted successful renewable electricity standards, but a national RES is needed to fully reap the benefits of renewable energy.

“The opportunity for innovation in the renewable energy industry is extremely high, making it one of the most attractive and fastest-growing sectors for venture capital investment,” said Mark Heesen, president of the National Venture Capital Association. “A signal of long-term Congressional support for the renewable energy space is tremendously encouraging for venture capitalists because it is good for America.”

Also lending their support at the event were Tom Buis, president of the National Farmers’ Union; Roxanne Brown, legislative representative for the United Steelworkers Union; Gene Karpinski, president of the League of Conservation Voters; and Anna Aurilio, federal legislative director for U.S. PIRG (Public Interest Research Group).

"The Udall-Platts Renewable Electricity Standard bill will ensure that more of our electricity is generated cleanly—which will help curb global warming while creating jobs and saving consumers money on their energy bills,” said Karpinski. “We urge members of the House to vote for this key measure to put America on track to a clean energy future."

Opponents of the RES have recently launched a campaign asserting that the Udall-Platts amendment would lead to higher costs for consumers, in particular in the Southeast. In fact, the cost allegations “don’t stand up to scrutiny,” said AWEA’s Wetstone in response to questions at the conference. Independent researchers have concluded that a national RES will lower demand and prices for natural gas and other fuels used for electricity generation, and will lower wholesale electricity prices—resulting in net savings for the economy. The Southeast, which imports most of the fuel it uses for power generation (natural gas, coal, and uranium) would benefit from these lower prices along with the rest of the nation. Wood Mackenzie, a non-partisan energy research firm, estimates that a 15% RES would lead to a net savings of $100 billion for U.S. consumers over the next 20 years, and that wholesale power prices would decrease by 7% to 11%, compared to a business-as-usual scenario.

This is the 'latest and greatest' update on the status of the RES proposal.

The vote will be down to the wire and will only be the beginning of the battle if it wins.

If an RES amendment passes the House, it will still need to make it through Conference Committee with the Senate, which failed to include an RES in the energy package they passed in June (see previous post). Additionally, the RES will be attached to an energy package that faces a presidential veto threat as well (see previous post).

See this previous post for a list of swing votes in the House and get on the phones if any of these folks belong to you! Crunch time...

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