Two bills calling on the U.S. to create a renewable energy standard (RES) were introduced in the Senate this week. Both bills were introduced by Senate Democrats, and both call on the U.S. to source 25 percent of its energy from renewable sources such as solar and wind by 2025. The bills could be a boon to the solar industry and homeowners alike. The pieces of legislation gained praise from environmentalists like the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and clean energy advocates like the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).
“These are all legislators who are deeply invested in moving the country to a clean energy future. Their legislation really indicates the resurgence of interest in moving the country forward. It’s nice to see this drum beat,” Franz Matzner, NRDC associate director of Government Affairs, tells SolarReviews. “They are really complementary bills that have some different components. They both set the country on the right path to growing our renewables and moving away from polluting fossil-fuel energy.”
The bills were introduced by Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.)—his first, and by Sens. Mark Udall (D-Colo.), who serves on the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and Tom Udall (D-N.M.). The bill, introduced by the Udalls, calls for a 25 percent RES by 2025. Such legislation is in place in 36 states and Washington, D.C., although some states have only voluntary mandates (30 are mandatory). But states with strong RESs (also called renewable portfolio standards or RPS) like California and Mark Udall’s home state of Colorado, have been instrumental in the growth of clean energy and the industries that support the growth of clean energy like solar installers.
"Clean energy creates jobs, spurs innovation, reduces global warming and makes us more energy independent. This common-sense proposal would extend Colorado's successful effort to expand the use of renewable energy alongside natural gas and coal to the entire nation," Mark Udall said.
The legislation proposed by Markey on Oct. 31 also calls for a 25 percent RES by 2025 but it goes farther, calling for utilities to enact energy efficiency programs that would save the equivalent of 15 percent of sales for electric utilities and 10 percent of sales for natural gas utilities. In introducing the legislation Markey explains, “Clean energy and gains in energy efficiency have been very bright spots for the national and Massachusetts economy. The American Renewable Energy and Efficiency Act would quadruple renewable energy production in the United States. It would create more than 400,000 jobs.”
“Markey has taken a very important step forward on bioenergy, following the latest science and his states adjustment of their RES to ensure that any bioenergy developed out of that legislation is truly carbon beneficial,” Matzner says. That’s really significant because the latest science is really clear that there has to be a decision between bioenergy that is putting more carbon into the atmosphere.” Such bioenergy is that derived by harvesting and burning trees, which releases more carbon than burning coal while reducing natural carbon sequestration.
The legislation also drew praise from the SEIA. "Removing market barriers and providing a competitive structure that allows the nation to recognize solar energy's full potential is a top priority for America's solar industry," says Christopher Mansour, SEIA vice president of Federal Affairs. "We've already seen what well-structured renewable energy standards have meant in states. They've opened electricity markets to allow for more competition from renewable sources of energy and ultimately driven down the cost of electricity for consumers. This success can be replicated at the national level."
“The real bottom line is both pieces of legislation are that what this country needs to do to combat climate change and to move way from fossil fuel,” Matzner says. He adds, “We’re particularly appreciative of Senator Markey making this his inaugural bill. It shows commitment.”