U.S. Senate's Renewable Electricity Proposal Is "Wimpy"

The proposed Renewable Electricity Standard (RES) to be considered by the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy & Natural Resources at a hearing on February 10 falls far short of what is doable and needed according to the SUN DAY Campaign.


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News Release


For Immediate Release: Monday - February 9, 2009

Contact: Ken Bossong, 301-270-6477 x.23

Washington DC - The proposed Renewable Electricity Standard (RES) to be considered by the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy & Natural Resources at a hearing on February 10 falls far short of what is doable and needed according to the SUN DAY Campaign.

The Senate committee will meet on Tuesday morning at 10:00 am (in Room 366 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building) to take testimony on the Democratic staff draft for Chairman Jeff Bingaman's Renewable Electricity Standard. The amendment requires sellers of electricity to retail consumers to obtain certain percentages of their electric supply from new renewable energy resources.

Calendar Year: .......................... Minimum annual %:
2011 through 2012 .................................... 4.0
2013 through 2015 .................................... 8.0
2016 through 2018 ................................... 12.0
2019 through 2020 ................................... 16.0
2021 through 2039 ................................... 20.0

Qualifying renewables (including distributed generators) are wind, solar, ocean, geothermal, biomass, landfill gas and incremental hydropower. Existing hydropower generators and municipal solid waste generators are excluded from the base amount from which the percentage requirements are calculated.

However, according to statistics compiled in its ""Electric Power Monthly" the Energy Information Administration reports that renewables (excluding large hydro and municipal waste) already account for almost 3% of U.S. electricity production. Moreover, in recent years, solar and wind have been expanding by more than 30% annually while geothermal is poised to double its current contribution within the next several years. Biomass and incremental hydropower are also expanding. In fact, in 2008, renewable energy accounted for the largest share of new electricity capacity additions.

Consequently, at current growth rates, renewables could - and probably will - easily surpass the committee's proposed 4.0% target well before 2011-2012. Furthermore, President Barack Obama has proposed a goal of doubling renewable energy within the next three years, which would yield a renewable share of roughly 6% of U.S. electricity supply by the end of 2011.

"In light of present trends, the Senate committee's proposed standard is well below what is realistically doable and likely over the next several years - even at only very modest 'business-as-usual' growth rates," said Ken Bossong, Executive Director of the SUN DAY Campaign. "Assuming there is a significantly more aggressive national commitment to developing sustainable energy technologies, then the Senate proposal is downright wimpy."

Longer-term, dozens of recent studies suggest that the Senate committee's proposal for renewable energy's share of the nation's electricity supply falls far short of what is technically and economically feasible and likely. (A compilation of 2008 news stories that discuss the findings of these studies is available upon request from the SUN DAY Campaign.)

At a minimum, a target of 25% of U.S. electricity supply from renewable energy sources (excluding large hydro and municipal waste) by 2025 is achievable. This is roughly equal to the goal set by the European Union for its member nations. It is also consistent with a resolution unanimously adopted by the Members of the U.S. Senate in June 2007.

However, if matched by an aggressive campaign to substantially improve energy efficiency and reduce total electric demand - particularly in light of the threat of climate change, renewable energy's share could be significantly higher. Given the right mix of tax policy, access to financial credit, R&D funding, government procurement, transmission grid development, interconnection standards, and other forms of public sector support, renewable energy sources conceivably could account for at least half - and maybe significantly more - of the nation's electricity supply within the next quarter-century.

"The Senate committee should be designing a renewable electricity standard that envisions near-term targets at least twice as high as now proposed," concluded Ken Bossong. "If the United States fully committed itself to sustainable energy development and discontinued squandering resources on dead-end nuclear and fossil fuel options, a national electricity generating system based 100% on renewable energy sources could become a reality."

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The SUN DAY Campaign is a non-profit research and educational organization founded in 1993 to promote sustainable energy technologies as cost-effective alternatives to nuclear power and fossil fuels.


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