Senate Energy Committee Considers Federal RPS

The possibility of including a nationwide renewable energy requirement — known in policy circles as a renewables portfolio standard (RPS) — was the subject of a hearing held March 8 by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, according to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA). Eighteen states and the District of Columbia currently have RPS requirements.

The discussion on adding some type of RPS to stalled energy policy legislation constitutes an effort by Senate Energy Committee chairman Pete Domenici (R-N.M.) to reach out to Democrats and fashion a bill that could pass the full Senate. Last year, the energy bill Senate Republicans crafted with very little input by Democrats and that lacked an RPS fell two votes short of the 60 votes needed to break a filibuster and reach a final vote on passage. Those speaking in favor of the RPS at the hearing included Don Furman of Pacificorp, Alan Nogee of the Union of Concerned Scientists and Pennsylvania consumer advocate Sonny Popowsky. They each cited the ability of an RPS to save consumers money by spurring increased use of renewable energy, thus lowering both the demand for, and the price of, natural gas used to generate electricity. Those speaking against a national RPS included Department of Energy Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy David Garman, Excel Energy CEO Wayne Brunetti and Kerry Bowers of the Southern Company. During the hearing, Energy Committee chairman Domenici said of the panel’s senior Democrat, “Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) has long been an advocate of a federally-mandated renewables portfolio standard that requires retail suppliers of electricity to obtain 10% of their electricity from renewable resources like wind, solar, geothermal, and other traditional renewable energies. While that kind of RPS has received over 50 votes on the Senate floor in the past, it does not fly on the House side [of Capitol Hill]. Assistant Secretary Garman’s testimony makes it clear that the Administration opposes this kind of RPS. I think it is time to explore an expanded portfolio standard that would mandate a broader array of clean fuels. I think a portfolio standard should go beyond wind, solar, and geothermal energy to include renewable energy like hydropower and clean alternatives such as coal gasification, clean coal, nuclear energy, and, finally, credits for achieving new levels of efficiency and conservation.” Information courtesy of the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA)

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