April 06, 2011

Tom Udall, Mark Udall Introduce Renewable Energy Standard Legislation


WASHINGTON - U.S. Senators Tom Udall (D-NM) and Mark Udall (D-CO) today continued their fight to enact a federal Renewable Energy Standard (RES) 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 would set the first national threshold for utilities to provide a certain percentage of their electricity from renewable resources - with a 6 percent requirement by 2013, followed by gradual increases thereafter to meet the 25 percent by 2025 goal.

The senators first introduced a similar initiative in 2002 while members of the House of Representatives. 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, first introduced the legislation in the Senate after being elected in 2008, and are joining forces again in hopes of finally passing a national RES into law.

"Americans want to put our nation on a path towards energy independence, and this bill is our best chance to get America running on homegrown energy while creating good jobs for hardworking Americans," said Tom Udall. "Studies show that a federal RES would reduce energy bills, revitalize rural America, slow global warming and strengthen our energy security. With American innovation and ingenuity, we can put our people to work in a thriving, clean energy economy."

"I was proud to lead the effort in Colorado to pass one of the country's first Renewable Electricity Standards - and it has helped the state create over 30,000 new good-paying jobs and spurred the growth of one of the strongest renewable energy sectors in the country," said Mark Udall. "We can do the same thing across the country with a robust national RES. A national RES would unleash innovation, helping America compete for renewable energy manufacturing jobs and lead in the global economic race."

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 Navigant Consulting study found that an RES would create over a quarter of a million 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 and up 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;

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 that 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.

Support continues to grow for a transition to cleaner energy sources in the generation of electricity. In his State of the Union address earlier this year, President Obama called for an 80 percent Clean Energy Standard (CES) by 2035, which would include renewables, nuclear, and natural gas. Senators Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Energy Committee respectively, recently released a White Paper on a CES and are soliciting responses on how to design such a program.

"We believe our legislation will help inform their process by showing the support and potential for a Renewable Energy Standard to play a major part in any energy legislation," said Tom Udall, who expects at least eight Senate co-sponsors to sign on to the RES bill.

Including New Mexico and Colorado, a total of 29 states and the District of Columbia, representing over half of the U.S. electricity market, already have renewable generation standards with various timelines and targets. This legislation does not pre-empt states that have stronger standards.