(ADPnews) – Sep 22, 2010 - A bipartisan group of US senators introduced a bill on Tuesday that would impose a 15% renewable energy standard (RES) on electrical utilities from 2021, the latest attempt at transforming a thorny issue into law.
The legislation is co-sponsored by Democratic Senators Jeff Bingaman -- who chairs the Senate's energy committee -- and Tom Udall of New Mexico, Mark Udall of Colorado and Byron Dorgan of North Dakota. Republican co-sponsors include Sam Brownback of Kansas, Susan Collins of Maine and John Ensign of Nevada.
The bill will require utilities to derive a bottom 11% their power from biomass, geothermal, solar, wind and other clean energy sources, and could cover the remaining 4% through energy efficiency improvements.
The laborious process of forging US climate energy legislation that includes a nationwide RES has been dragging on for more than a year now. The original bill scraped through the House back in June 2009 but failed the Senate as Republicans branded it as a “job-killer”, warning its high price tag would inflate costs for the industry, business and consumers. The Gulf of Mexico eco disaster further ratcheted up the pressure.
Overall, the US has made a number of futile attempts at passing a national RES. Most recently, such a provision was scrapped from a much broader climate change bill to ensure passage through Senate. Still, Republicans balked at a proposal in the haircut bill to waive the USD 75 million (EUR 56m) cap on offshore oil spill damages in the wake of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, arguing such a move would drive investments away from the region, thus deepening US dependence on foreign oil.
With the November 2 primary elections looming large and the legislative calendar overcrowded with other major items such as a deal on tax extenders and a defense authorisation bill, the odds for passage of the new bill by the end of this year do not look very high.
Analysts reckon that the Senate’s failure to pass the bigger climate bill diminishes chances even further.
"Chairman Bingaman may be setting the stage for the clean and green legislative agenda in 2011, but we give near zero odds for 2010 passage," of the bill this year, Kevin Book, an analyst at ClearView Energy Partners, LLC, told Reuters.
But Bingaman is upbeat about the bill’s prospects, arguing it would drum up the cross-party support it needs to make it. "I think that the votes are present in the Senate to pass a renewable electricity standard," he said. "I think that we need to get on with figuring out what we can pass and move forward."