December 1, 2011

Bingaman to float ‘clean energy standard’ early next year

By Andrew Restuccia, E2 Wire, The Hill, 30 November 2011

Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) will introduce legislation early next year requiring that a portion of the country’s electricity be generated from low-carbon energy sources.

The “clean energy standard” legislation, which faces major hurdles in Congress, will be informed by an analysis released Wednesday by the Energy Information Administration (EIA), the Energy Department’s statistical arm.

Bingaman praised the analysis, which he requested in August, in a statement Wednesday.

“The EIA has provided us with a thorough and thoughtful analysis of key policy options for a Clean Energy Standard,” Bingaman said. “The insight that EIA experts have included in this report will help inform the CES legislation I am developing and planning to introduce early next year.”

President Obama called on Congress earlier this year to pass a clean energy standard requiring that power companies generate 80 percent of the country’s electricity from low-carbon sources such as wind, solar, natural gas and nuclear.

While Obama and some top Democrats in Congress have advocated for the policy, the legislation faces strong opposition in Congress. Many Republicans, as well as some Democrats from coal states, have criticized the policy, arguing it unfairly advantages renewable energy sources.

Though he intends to introduce the bill early next year, Bingaman has acknowledged that the proposal is unlikely to be signed into law.

“I think it would be very difficult to get it through both houses,” he told reporters in October. “But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t introduce it and talk about it and let people respond to it.”

Bingaman asked EIA to model a clean energy standard that sets a goal of getting 80 percent of the country’s electricity from low-carbon energy sources by 2035 and 95 percent by 2050. EIA also modeled seven alternative policy proposals.

The clean energy standard would have little impact on electricity prices through 2022, but prices would rise by 21 percent by 2035, according to the analysis.

Overall, the proposal would reduce the country’s reliance on coal-fired power and cut greenhouse gas emissions by 43 percent by 2035, the analysis says.

“The [clean energy standard] changes the generation mix, reducing the role of coal technologies and increasing reliance on natural gas, non-hydro renewable and nuclear technologies,” EIA says.

Wind power is one of the big winners in Bingaman’s proposal. Wind power generation would increase by five times by 2035 under the clean energy standard proposal, according to the analysis.

Read the full EIA analysis here.

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