On Tuesday, Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) proposed a national renewable electricity standard (also called a renewable portfolio standard) as a stand-alone bill with some GOP support. The standard would require electric utilities who sell more 4 million MW-hrs per year to generate at least 15% of their electricity from renewable sources by 2021. Supporters view a national RES as a way to encourage the development of renewable energy in light of Congress' rejection of the broader and more ambitious energy bill proposed earlier this year by Sens. Kerry (D-MA) and Lieberman (I-CT). The proposed RES is expected to have much lower costs than Kerry-Lieberman's cap-and-trade scheme although it will also do much less to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, 28 states and the District of Columbia already have renewable portfolio standards, and most are more demanding than the proposed national RES. For example, California utilities are required to produce 33% of their electricity from renewable sources by 2020. Arizona's current RPS only requires 15% renewable energy by 2025. Five other states have non-binding goals for renewable energy development. The bill will obviously have the largest impact on states without any existing standards/goals for renewable energy, primarily the entire southeastern portion of the country.
Co-sponsors on the bill include Sens. Sam Brownback (R-KA), Susan Collins (R-ME), Byron Dorgan (D-ND), Mark Udall (D-CO), and Tom Udall (D-NM). From all indications, the co-sponsors intend to promote the bill as a way to create jobs and make the country more energy-independent, and to avoid the controversial topic of climate change.