(Corrects paragraph 2 to make clear bill requires 15
perecent renewable by 2021, not 2012)
By Timothy Gardner
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A bipartisan group of U.S.
senators introduced a bill on Tuesday that would require
utilities to generate minimum levels of renewable power which
environmentalists welcomed but analysts said had slim chances
of passing this year.
Jeff Bingaman, a Democrat and chair of the Senate's energy
committee, and Sam Brownback, a Republican, introduced the bill
which would create a Renewable Electricity Standard (RES)
requiring utilities to generate 15 percent renewable power by
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid stripped a Renewable
Electricity Standard out of the broader oil spill bill in July
saying climate measures would not get a single Republican vote.
But the bill introduced on Tuesday has some support as it
is nearly the same bill as one that passed Bingaman's committee
last year. Supporters of the bill said two other Republicans,
Senators Susan Collins and John Ensign, also support it.
Steel workers, utilities that have strong renewable
portfolios, and environmentalists seeking to spur reductions in
greenhouse gas emissions have pushed for the bill saying it
would create jobs to help the country compete with China in
production of wind turbines and solar power panels.
The measure "will help protect and create hundreds of
thousands of good-paying jobs and keep America in the clean
energy race," said Leo Gerard, president of the United
"With a national RES in place, we'll invest billions of
additional dollars in renewables and create tens of thousands
of jobs," said Lew Hay, the chairman and chef executive of
NextEra Energy Inc. "Without an RES, that won't
COLLAPSE OF CLIMATE BILL HURTS CHANCES
But analysts said the bill had little chance of passing
this year in part because the senate failed to pass the bigger
"Chairman Bingaman may be setting the stage for the clean
and green legislative agenda in 2011, but we give near zero
odds for 2010 passage," of the bill this year, said Kevin Book,
an analyst at ClearView Energy Partners, LLC.
He said the collapse of cap-and-trade legislation meant the
end of allowances that would have been given away to help state
governments pay for high-cost green sources and efficiency
Whitney Stanco, an analyst at Concept Capital's Washington
Research Group, said the bill had about a 25 percent chance of
enactment this year, as the legislative calendar is filled with
other big items such as a deal on tax extenders and a defense
Bruce Josten, top lobbyist at the Chamber of Commerce, told
the Reuters Washington Summit on Tuesday that such a measure
could pass next year if it had provisions that protect power
bills from rising and give breaks to states lacking bountiful
wind and solar resources.
The bill introduced Tuesday would set incremental mandates
requiring power companies to generate 3 percent of their power
from renewable sources such as wind, solar, ocean waves, and
geothermal by 2012.
It requires 6 percent renewable energy by 2016, 9 percent
by 2017, 12 percent by 2019, and 15 percent by 2021.
The bill would let utilities reach the mandates also by
generating electricity from biomass, burning landfill gas and
through new hydropower at existing dams.
Utilities could also meet the targets by saving energy
through measures like funding efficiency programs for homes and
businesses or purchasing renewable energy. Or they could
purchase renewable energy credits or energy efficiency credits
from entities who have excess.
As a last resort they could make payments at a rate of 2.1
cents per kilowatt hour for development of renewable resources,
or to offset increases in customer's bills.
(Reporting by Timothy Gardner; Editing by David Gregorio)