Washington, DC [RenewableEnergyAccess.com] Business, farm, labor, environmental leaders and congressional members gathered on Capitol Hill this week in a last-minute push to garner support for the National renewable portfolio standard (RPS) legislation up for debate on the U.S. House of Representatives floor. The vote, however, will come down to the wire since Congress will adjourn for its August recess after Friday.
The National RPS, also referred to as a renewable electricity standard (RES), legislation requiring utilities to obtain 15 percent of the electricity from renewable energy sources by 2020—or to purchase renewable energy credits from others to help meet the 20 percent requirement—will be offered as an amendment to the House Energy package recently unveiled by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA).
Based on a stand-alone measure first introduced in the House in 2002 by Rep. Tom Udall (D-NM), and co-sponsored by Reps. Todd Platts (R. PA), the amendment has since continued gaining broad, bipartisan support. To-date, the legislation has 154 cosponsors.
Opponents of the amendment, however, have recently launched a campaign asserting that the Udall-Platts amendment would lead to higher costs for consumers, in particular in the Southeast. In fact, the cost allegations “don’t stand up to scrutiny,” said Gregory Wetstone, senior director for governmental and public affairs for the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA).
The Southeast, which imports most of the fuel it uses for power generation (natural gas, coal, and uranium) would benefit from these lower prices along with the rest of the nation.
“The vote on a renewable energy standard…is a landmark referendum on the direction of the nation’s energy policy,” said Wetstone. “It’s not every day that Congress has an opportunity to save reduce energy costs, promote our security, spur job creation, and reduce pollution.”
Wood Mackenzie, a non-partisan energy research firm, estimates that a 15% RPS would lead to a net savings of $100 billion for U.S. consumers over the next 20 years, and that wholesale power prices would decrease by 7% to 11%, compared to a business-as-usual scenario.
“The opportunity for innovation in the renewable energy industry is extremely high, making it one of the most attractive and fastest-growing sectors for venture capital investment,” said Mark Heesen, president of the National Venture Capital Association.
More than 20 individual states have enacted a successful RES or RPS, but this state-by-state legislation has drawbacks since utilities are naturally reluctant to absorb the cost of renewables on an uneven basis. A federally-instituted standard that applies across the country, on the other hand, would allow utilities to operate on a more even playing field when sourcing their power.
“We believe an RES will create public benefits for everyone. The renewable energy goals are significant, but not overly burdensome for states as it gives them flexibility to achieve these goals. An RES will benefit farmers, save consumers money, reduce air pollution, and increase reliability and energy security,” said Rep. Mark Udall who is co-chair of the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Caucus.
The coalition of sponsors who have been successfully working to bring support for the House passage of an RPS are Representatives Ciro Rodriguez, Mark Udall, Diana DeGette, Frank Pallone, Chris Van Hollen and Henry Waxman. The legislation is actively supported by numerous organizations, including the Union of Concerned Scientists, National Farmers Union, the American Wind Energy Association, United Steelworkers Union, National Venture Capital Association, League of Conservation Voters, US PIRG, Audubon, the League of Conservation Voters, the Sierra Club and many more.