Bioenergy, Energy Efficiency, Geothermal, Hydropower, Solar, Wind Power

RES Part XIV: The Return of the Mandate

It’s back and, well, not really better than ever. But at least it’s back.

That’s right – after a year of ups and downs in the political arena, a bill proposing a renewable energy standard (RES) has been re-introduced in the Senate. The RES will require utilities nation-wide to procure 15 percent of their electricity from renewables by 2021.

A national target has been proposed more than a dozen times over the last five years. Each time, due to political wrangling, Democrats and Republicans have failed to pass it. Meanwhile, over 100 other countries have passed some sort of goal for renewable energy.

A vote on the bill isn’t expected until after the November mid-term elections. Until then, Democratic Senators are focusing on keeping their seats.

Some analysts are criticizing the target for being too low. Ken Bossong, the executive director of the Sun Day Campaign, points out that the proposed target for 3% renewables by 2013 has already been achieved. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, non-hydro resources accounted for 4.1% of generation in the first half of this year.

However, the 15% by 2021 target, while significantly weaker than what advocates want, is much better for the industry than having no requirement.

“Creating and RES framework and starting foundation is a worthy goal and the Senate bill should be supported for that reason,” said Bossong in a statement.

It’s uncertain whether there will be 60 votes in the Senate. A couple Republicans have co-sponsored the bill, but a few Democrats have said they won’t support it.

We’ve certainly seen this political drama played out many times before. Industry advocates are hoping that this time, the ending isn’t the same. We may have to wait until after November to see.