June 26, 2019

Udall, Senators Introduce Renewable Electricity Standard Legislation

Udall-Heinrich-Whitehouse-Smith-King bill would create a federal standard for renewable electricity generation from utilities in every state

Targets would put U.S. on the pathway to decarbonize the power sector by 2050 consistent with the emission reductions recommended in the IPCC 1.5 C Special report

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-N.M.), along with U.S. Senators Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), and Angus King (I–Maine), introducedlegislation to achieve at least 50 percent renewable electricity nationwide in just 15 years – putting the U.S. on a trajectory to decarbonize the power sector by 2050. Starting in 2020, the Renewable Electricity Standard (RES) Act of 2019 would require electricity providers across the country to increase their supply of renewable energy from sources like wind and solar each year. The senators’ RES meets the recommendations of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on ClimateChange (IPCC) 1.5 C Special Report, which outlines the standards that must be met worldwide to respond to the existential threat of climate change.

“Climate change poses an existential threat to our environment, public health, way of life, and security – requiring an immediate and aggressive federal response to achieve significant cuts in carbon emissions as well as other pollutants that hurt our most vulnerable communities. But the Trump administration and the majority in the Senate have turned their back on Americans and many in New Mexico who are right in the bull’s eye of climate change. As states step up with legislation to increase the use of renewable energy, the entire country needs to follow suit – or it will soon be too late,” said Udall. “America can no longer afford inaction on climate change— that is why I am proud to introduce legislation that meets this challenge and demonstrates that America is still a leader in renewable energy.” 

“Increased use of renewable energy will move us toward a sustainable future and a stronger economy,” said Heinrich. “The Renewable Electricity Standard Act will help chart a path to reduced dependence on fossil fuels and incentivizes stronger investments in solar and wind technologies. Transitioning to renewable energy will allow New Mexicans to save money on their monthly energy bills and will create thousands of new, high-paying jobs all across our state. We have the resources, the technology, and the human capital to modernize our grid and reach our climate goals. We just need the will.”

“Electricity sector emissions are a large contributor to climate change and we need to significantly ramp up the use of clean energy to blunt global temperature increases,” said Whitehouse. “Our legislation will ensure continued transition of the electricity sector from fossil fuels to clean, renewable energy.”

“America needs to lead in creating clean, affordable energy and good jobs,” said Smith. “States like Minnesota and New Mexico are developing innovative ways to expand renewable energy and put us all on a better path when it comes to public health, the health of our environment, and the strength of our economy. The federal government needs to support this work, and this bill is another example of how we are stepping up. 

“Climate change is an urgent threat to our planet that can dramatically alter ecosystems, threaten our national security, and cause major damage to local economies. Maine people are seeing its impacts in our waters, forests and lands, and understand that to respond to a crisis of this magnitude, we need a serious emphasis on renewable energy,” said King. “By setting aggressive but realistic targets, we have an opportunity to mitigate the impacts of this phenomenon, and create good, high-paying jobs in the process. This will create new economic opportunities, and fulfill our responsibility to preserve this world for the next generation. In short: it’s the right thing to do.”

Although several states, including New Mexico, have passed legislation to require at least 50 percent clean energy generation by 2030, the U.S. will be unable to take significant steps in addressing climate change unless every state increases its clean energy deployment. The RES would set a national standard to ensure that investment in renewables and fighting climate change is a nationwide priority.  By requiring utilities in every state to increase their share of renewables at or above the federal floor and excluding existing renewable generation, no state is at a disadvantage because of where they are starting from.

Increasing the supply of renewable energy is also critical in combatting the harmful health effects of air pollution from fossil fuels. Asthma is now the most common non-communicable disease in children in the U.S. In New Mexico, the asthma rate is higher than the national average. The burning, refining, and transportation of fossil fuels produce air toxins that are harmful to human health and have contributed to increased rates of asthma and other serious diseases.  

The full text of the bill text can be found HERE. A summary of the bill can be found HERE.  

The Renewable Electricity Standard Act of 2019 Would:

Create a federal floor-setting standard that requires each retail electricity provider to increase its supply of renewable energy by a percentage of total retail sales each year, starting in 2020. 

Each kilowatt hour of electric energy generated by a new renewable resource will be entitled to a Renewable Electricity Credit (REC), which will be turned in for compliance.  Under limited circumstances, certain existing facilities that increase their generation, repower, or are not being used to meet state RESs or voluntary market demand could also receive RECs.

• Achieves at least 50 percent electricity from renewables in the U.S. by 2035, roughly double business as usual and nearly triple current levels (17.6% in 2018).

Requires the Secretary of Energy to submit a plan to Congress for changes to the program post-2035 to achieve zero-carbon electricity by 2050. 

The Renewable Electricity Standard Act of 2019 has received endorsements from a wide range of groups such as American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE), American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), Appalachian Voices, Environment America, Environmental Law and Policy Center, Environmental Working Group, Interwest Energy Alliance, League of Conservation Voters, National Wildlife Federation, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Sierra Club, Solar Energy, Industries Association (SEIA), Union of Concerned Scientists, and the Wilderness Society. 

“This proposal is eminently achievable and it’s long past time to roll out these technologies in a bigger and more uniform way. The legislation would ensure that every state is doing its fair share to address the climate crisis,” said Ken Kimmell, president of the Union of Concerned Scientists. “The good news is that not only would this legislation set the nation on a course to decarbonize the power sector by 2050, it’s affordable for consumers. Diversifying the nation’s electricity mix with renewable energy would reduce the economic and climate risks of an overreliance on natural gas. It also would substantially reduce air pollutants that disproportionately affect low-income communities, communities of color and down-wind states.” 

“We commend Senator Udall for introducing the Renewable Electricity Standard Act, which would set the U.S. on a path to generate 50% of its electricity from cost-competitive renewable energy resources by 2035. The bill would drive investment in our nation’s power generation infrastructure, improve affordability and reliability for consumers, and accelerate the ongoing transition to America’s renewable energy economy. ACORE welcomes the opportunity to work with Senator Udall and others in Congress as the Renewable Electricity Standard Act advances through the legislative process,” said Gregory Wetstone, President and CEO of the American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE). 

“We need to put America on a path to a clean energy transition on a scale that matches the size of our environmental challenges,” said Rob Sargent, clean energy program director for Environment America. “This bill will provide a major boost by laying the foundation for renewable energy progress everywhere.” 

“Significant, rapid expansion of responsibly built and sited renewable energy is essential to protecting people and wildlife alike from the effects of climate change. The recent UN-backed report on nearly a million species of wildlife facing extinction worldwide only underscores why we cannot wait any longer to take major action,” said Shannon Heyck-Williams, director of climate and energy policy, National Wildlife Federation. “The world’s scientists are sounding the alarm — and Congress should heed those warnings by pursing a carbon-free electricity standard.  Sen. Udall’s proposal will help our country meet that goal, with tremendous economic and environmental benefits for all, including vulnerable communities.”

“More than half of the states have already enacted policies to ramp up renewable energy,” said EWG President Ken Cook. “Sen. Udall’s proposal will provide the necessary incentives to bring all 50 states into the fold. This will save consumers billions, slash CO2 emissions and address the climate crisis head-on with a national plan to help solve it. We applaud Sen. Udall for his vision and leadership on expanding renewable energy and working to combat the climate crisis, and we urge all his colleagues to support this legislation.” 

“LCV applauds Senator Udall for leading the introduction of the Renewable Electricity Standard (RES) Act of 2019. This legislation sets an ambitious, but achievable pathway to carbon-free electricity by 2050, while significantly ramping up renewables in all fifty states and prioritizing action in the frontline communities that are suffering from exposure to toxic pollution and communities transitioning away from a fossil fuel dependent economy. At a time when the Trump Administration is touting their latest rollback of climate and clean air protections, we have seen unprecedented climate action from Governors and in state houses across this country. LCV will continue to work with all members of Congress who prioritize policies that reduce carbon and other pollution, improve air quality, and build a clean energy economy that works for everyone,” said Tiernan Sittenfeld, SVP of Government Affairs for the League of Conservation Voters. 

The full text of the bill text can be found HERE. A summary of the bill can be found HERE.  

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