Despite President Obama’s call for a national Renewable Electricity Standard (RES) that would require utilities nationwide to produce 25% of their electricity through renewable means by 2025, members of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee are having difficulty developing legislation that will reach this goal. After spending the past two months debating the RES as part of a comprehensive energy bill, the committee has gutted the legislation and reduced the RES to 15% by 2021. Furthermore, up to 25% of the renewable energy requirement may be substituted for efficiency improvements (such as weatherization efforts) and many public utilities may be exempt all together. The House Energy and Commerce Committee produced legislation that is not much better, passing a renewable energy standard of 20% by 2020 where up to 40% of the requirement may be covered by efficiency measures.

While reducing energy use through efficiency measures is obviously beneficial, it shouldn’t come at the expense of renewable energy production. Neither the Senate nor the House proposals strive to reach the 20% Wind Solution by 2030 proposed by the Department of Energy.

Overall, these proposals do little to help create a robust, nation-wide standard for renewable energy. Marchant Wentworth of the Union of Concerned Scientists told the Associated Press that, after the exemptions and provisions in the proposals are taken into account, renewable requirements may be as low as eight or nine percent. Mark Sinclair of the Clean Energy States Alliance agrees, telling the AP that the proposed federal RES would mandate less renewable energy production by 2030 than would otherwise already occur under current RES laws in 29 states and the District of Columbia.

This blog recently examined the many benefits wrought by a strong national renewable electricity standard, such as the generation of “297,000 new domestic jobs, lower electricity and natural gas bills for consumers by $64.3 billion, and [the production of] $13.5 billion in new income for landowners leasing their land for renewable energy development.” The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), along with other environmental groups, is continuing to lobby for the tougher standards.

Senator Robert Menendez from New Jersey warned that unless the RES is strengthened, the bill may lose Democratic support in the Senate. Menendez plans to amend the bill to include the 25% standard sought by the President once it reaches the Senate floor for debate. However, he is unsure whether the tougher standard would still garner enough Republican support to be passed.

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