February 12, 2009

Tom Udall Introduces Renewable Electricity Measure

Senator's First Bill Continues Long Fight to Enact an RES into Law

WASHINGTON - U.S. Senator Tom Udall, D-N.M., continued his fight to enact a federal Renewable Electricity Standard (RES) into law today by introducing legislation that would require utilities to generate 25 percent of their electricity from wind, solar and other renewable energy sources by 2025. The bill, Udall's first since being elected to the Senate, would set the first national threshold for utilities to provide 6 percent of their electricity from renewable resources by 2012, and gradually increases thereafter to meet the 25 percent by 2025 goal.


The legislation is based on a bipartisan initiative introduced in the House of Representatives in 2002 by then-Rep. Tom Udall and cosponsored by then-Rep. Mark Udall, D-Colo. The two eventually built a coalition in the House and won passage of an RES amendment in 2007. Tom and Mark Udall, who are first-cousins and now freshmen Senators, are joining forces again in hopes of helping pass an RES into law.


"Americans want to put our nation on a path towards energy independence," said Tom Udall. "By establishing an RES, we can begin creating new, clean energy jobs. In addition to these jobs, studies have shown that a federal RES would reduce energy bills, revitalize rural America, slow global warming and strengthen our energy security."


The Senators are joining New Mexico's Senior Senator Jeff Bingaman, Chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources, and long-time champion of a federal RES. Chairman Bingaman has secured Senate passage of an RES three separate times.


"I am excited to be joining Chairman Bingaman's effort to pass an aggressive, yet flexible and achievable, renewable electricity standard in the Senate," said Tom Udall. "Make no mistake, I have no illusions that the road to enacting a proposal like this will be easy, and we have a lot of work ahead. Chairman Bingaman has led the fight on this issue in the Senate, and I want to do everything possible to help him secure its passage into law."


"Tom and I share a common interest in passing a strong RES, so that we can help create good ‘green energy' jobs and begin shifting to a low-carbon economy. I look forward to working closely with him and Mark Udall in this important effort," Bingaman said.


The legislation would create a federal standard requiring electric utilities to diversify their portfolios with wind, solar, biomass, hydrokinetic and other renewable energy sources. Studies have shown it would also:


• Create jobs: Wind and solar energy are likely to be among the largest sources of new manufacturing jobs worldwide during the 21st Century. A Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) study found that an RES would create hundreds of thousands of new American jobs;


• Reduce energy bills: Energy research firm Wood Mackenzie found that an RES would lower natural gas and electricity prices and save more than $100 billion for American consumers;


• Revitalize rural America: Farmers and rural land owners in windy areas are reaping payments of $3,000-$8,000 per turbine per year, while still being able to work their land. The "wind harvest" can carry hard-pressed farmers through difficult times, such as droughts, even if crops fail;


• Strengthen energy security: Domestic renewable energy can reduce projected imports of liquid natural gas (LNG) from such unstable regions as Qatar, Russia and Iran (which together hold more than half the world's gas reserves) and reduce U.S. energy payments to these nations; and


• Slow global warming: By displacing the use of fossil fuels to generate electricity, an RES can cut emissions of conventional pollutants and greenhouse gases.


Suppliers can meet the federal requirements by purchasing credits from other entities who have obtained credits by producing renewable energy. It also allows utilities to bank credits for four years and to borrow credits from up to three years in the future.


Municipal and other publicly-owned power plants and rural electric co-ops would be exempted from the requirements.


Including New Mexico, 28 states already have renewable generation standards with various timelines and targets. This legislation does not pre-empt states that have stronger standards.