One of the big things that has hindered greater adoption of renewable energy in the U.S. and across the U.S. is a lack of federal policy that supports renewable energy across the country. In states that have developed such Renewable Energy Standard (RES) legislation like California, Colorado and Massachusetts, for instance, solar and wind power have taken off, creating not just a requirement that utilities source electricity from renewable sources but also thousands of jobs.
Today (May 12) Democratic Senators led by New Mexico’s Tom Udall introduced a federal RES bill that would require utilities in the country to source 30 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2030. "A national Renewable Electricity Standard will help slow utility rate increases and boost private investment in states like New Mexico—all while combatting climate change," said Udall, who previously helped pass RES legislation through the House. "Investing in homegrown clean energy jobs just makes sense, and that's why I'm continuing my fight for a national RES. More than half the states—including New Mexico—have widely successful RES policies.”
Unfortunately, given the current climate in Washington, D.C., which is run by Republicans in both houses of Congress, the legislation has little chance of making it to President Obama’s desk. Still, it’s important to realize that legislators are trying to take action on climate change, creating jobs and promoting clean energy.
The legislation was introduced by Edward Markey (Mass.), Martin Heinrich (N.M.), Michael Bennet (Colo.), Jeff Merkley (Ore.), Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.) and Mazie Hirono (Hi.).
"Colorado's robust renewable energy standard has already helped spark entrepreneurship, innovation and job creation," Bennet said. "Across Colorado, small business owners and renewable energy companies are tapping into the potential of clean, renewable energy sources to create jobs across our state. This bill sets realistic goals that will boost Colorado's clean energy economy and help protect our land, air, and water."
Indeed, states like California and Hawaii are already well on their way to meeting RES standards. California’s already sourcing significant amounts of energy from renewables and has more coming online. What’s more important to note is the RES hasn’t had much impact on rates in the state.
In Hawaii, renewable energy is expected to bring rates down. "Hawaii faces the highest energy costs in the country and the people of Hawaii know we need to transition away from fossil fuels and toward clean sources of energy that help us preserve a healthy climate,” Sen. Hirono said. Already 18 percent of the state’s electricity is from renewables. “Last week the Hawaii State Legislature updated our state goal to seek 100 percent renewable electricity by 2045.”
"Setting a goal, and letting the private sector meet that goal, has helped to drive innovation and investment in clean energy in Hawaii and will do the same for states across the country,” Hirono said. “The bill that we're introducing today creates a nationwide standard that would help to drive demand for clean energy solutions, attracting investment and providing much needed certainty for the renewable energy industry while decreasing dependency on fossil fuels.”
In proposing the legislation the Senators cited analysis from the Union of Concerned Scientists. That analysis found that such an RES would save consumers $25.1 billion in cumulative electricity and natural gas bills from 2015 to 2030 while driving $294 billion in cumulative new capital investments—$106 billion more than business as usual.
“These kinds of renewable electricity standards work—and they’re good for both the U.S. economy and our environment,” said Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) CEO Rhone Resch. He added that the solar industry alone now employs 174,000 Americans and pumps nearly $18 billion a year into the economy.Tweet