Federal Renewable Electricity Standard could be passed soon

04/01/09 Seán Kinane
WMNF Drive-Time News Wednesday | Listen to this entire show:

WMNF reported that yesterday the Florida Senate moved a step closer to passing a bill requiring that utilities generate a portion of their electricity from renewable sources.

Renewable electricity standard, or RES, legislation is also moving through the U.S. House and Senate. A strong RES will unleash the renewable energy potential of the southeastern part of the country and position the region to be a leader in the country’s transition to a clean energy economy according to Stephen Smith, executive director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.

“We flat-out reject the notion that the southeast cannot meet a renewable energy standard. We are frustrated by the fact that there are some powerful forces that are at work that have put out this misinformation. They want to maintain the status quo, particularly some of the large utilities that are putting out this misinformation.”

The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, along with the Union of Concerned Scientists sent a letter on Wednesday from 3200 people to Senate and House leaders. Smith says it asks them to pass a strong RES with a requirement that 25% of all electricity be generated from renewable sources by 2025.

“The wheels in Congress are moving towards considering a renewable energy standard. In the U.S. Senate, Sen. Bingham, chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee is expected to bring up the renewable energy standard after the upcoming Congressional recess. Just yesterday Chairman Henry Waxman and Ed Markey of the House Energy and Commerce Committee released a comprehensive energy and climate bill that includes a renewable energy electric standard. And they will complete consideration of this bill by Memorial Day.”

Jeff Deyette, an analyst with the Union of Concerned Scientists calls these “strong bills” but says there is always a chance they can be watered down. But if the bills do become law, Deyette says they would lead to economic development, increased jobs, savings to consumers, and reductions in greenhouse gas emissions across the country and in the southeast.

“Nationally a standard would support more than $260 billion worth of new investments in clean energy facilities.”

Deyette says that an RES of 25% by 2025 would result in 4% lower natural gas prices and 7% lower electricity prices resulting in $64 billion dollars in savings for consumers. It would create nearly 300,000 new jobs. For example, employment opportunities would be created in hydroelectric power. David Brown Kinloch is owner of Lock 7 Hydro Partners in Kentucky, traditionally a coal state.

"My company has identified, in Kentucky alone, 39 additional existing dams that have been built for other purposes that could have hydroelectric power generating plants added to them."

A professional designer and installer of solar panels, James Marlow of Radiance Solar, supports a strong RES. He says that Georgia has more than twice the solar potential of Germany, which currently leads the world in installed solar capacity.

“This really is about creating thousands of quality 21st Century jobs here in the southeast. … It takes 3 gallons of water to produce one kilowatt of electricity.”

Joseph James is president and CEO of the Corporation for Economic Opportunity in South Carolina, a group that is trying to alleviate rural poverty with green jobs, especially among African-American communities. One way James is doing that is by creating a coal-substitute from waste wood through a process called torrefaction.

“Torrefaction is a process that essentially heats cellulosic biomass, it drives off water. ... The resulting product is somewhat like charcoal."

James says the southeast has an abundance of renewable energies, including biomass, wind, solar, and hydro.

Stephen Whitfield is executive director of the nonprofit landowner’s association called North Carolina Woodlands. He says the use of woody biomass would generate new markets for forests in the southeast.

“These new markets would allow foresters to improve retention of private forests. ... We’re losing 360,000 acres of woodland each year, primarily to development."

Union of Concerned Scientists

Southern Alliance for Clean Energy

HR 890

S 433

side-by-side comparison of the different versions

Solar Energy Industries Association info on proposed Federal legislation

SACE action page for Florida’s RPS

UCS/SACE letter to Pelosi

paper on torrefaction in Energy for Sustainable Development

previous WMNF coverage of Florida RPS

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