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Last Chance: RPS Vote Looming in House

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.

 

State Amount Year Organization Administering RPS
Arizona 15% 2025 Arizona Corporation Commission
California 20% 2010 California Energy Commission
Colorado 20% 2020 Colorado Public Utilities Commission
Connecticut 23% 2020 Department of Public Utility Control
District of Columbia 11% 2022 DC Public Service Commission
Delaware 10% 2019 Delaware Energy Office
Hawaii 20% 2020 Hawaii Strategic Industries Division
Iowa 105 MW   Iowa Utilities Board
Illinois* 25% 2017 Illinois Department of Commerce
Massachusetts 4% 2009 Massachusetts Division of Energy Resources
Maryland 9.5% 2022 Maryland Public Service Commission
Maine 10% 2017 Maine Public Utilities Commission
Minnesota 25% 2025 Minnesota Department of Commerce
Missouri* 11% 2020 Missouri Public Service Commission
Montana 15% 2015 Montana Public Service Commission
New Hampshire 23.8% 2025 New Hampshire Office of Energy and Planning
New Jersey 22.5% 2021 New Jersey Board of Public Utilities
New Mexico 20% 2020 New Mexico Public Regulation Commission
Nevada 20% 2015 Public Utilities Commission of Nevada
New York 24% 2013 New York Public Service Commission
Oregon 25% 2025 Oregon Energy Office
Pennsylvania 18% 2020 Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission
Rhode Island 15% 2020 Rhode Island Public Utilities Commission
Texas 5,880 MW 2015 Public Utility Commission of Texas
Vermont* 10% 2013 Vermont Department of Public Service
Virginia* 12% 2022 Virginia Department of Mines, Minterals, and Energy
Washington 15% 2020 Washington Secretary of State
Wisconsin 10% 2015 Public Service Commission of Wisconsin
*Four states, Illinois, Missouri, Virginia, and Vermont, have set voluntary goals for adopting renewable energy instead of portfolio standards with binding targets.

 

“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.