Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) unveiled the Clean Energy Standard Act of 2012 today to steer the country in a direction of reducing overall carbon emissions. The bill aims for large power companies to begin increasing their electricity output from low-carbon sources like wind, solar, nuclear energy and natural gas by 2015, with the overall goal of producing 84 percent of their overall electricity from low-carbon sources by 2035.
The chairman explains:
“The goal of the CES is ambitious – a doubling of clean energy by 2035. But analysis has shown that the goal is also achievable and affordable. Meeting the CES will yield substantial benefits to our health, our economy, our global competitiveness and our economy,” Bingaman said.A fact sheet on the bill says the CES will only apply to retail utilities, not small utilities, and will be measured by the number of credits given to generators of clean energy. In other words, the higher the number of credits a utility has, the less emissions per unit of electricity. The fact sheet says:
This flexible framework naturally allows a wide variety of sources (solar, wind, nuclear, natural gas, coal with carbon capture and storage, etc.) to be used to meet the standard; allows market forces to determine what the optimal mix of technologies and fuels should be; and makes it easy for new technologies to be incorporated.Each energy source, depending on its emissions, would receive varied levels of credits. For instance, Platts explains:
Under [Sen. Bingaman’s] proposal, electricity generated by zero-carbon sources, such as wind, solar, geothermal, hydropower and nuclear, would get full credits.Whereas, Platts continues:
Electricity from coal-fired generation with carbon capture and storage or coal co-firing with biomass would receive partial credits if they emit fewer carbon emissions than 0.82 mt/megawatt-hour, the equivalent of new supercritical coal generation.The Platts article also points out that the credits could be accumulated and banked indefinitely, or transferred, traded or sold through an Energy Department trading system that would be set up as part of the legislation.
Sen. Bingaman, who is retiring at the end of this Congress, acknowledged that it may be difficult to get the legislation through both houses of Congress and to the president’s desk during this session. However, the White House’s spokesman Clark Steven praised today’s announcement as a step in the right direction:
“As the president has said consistently, a CES will drive innovation and investment in a range of clean energy sources — including renewables like wind and solar as well as nuclear, efficient natural gas and clean coal. A CES will also help America remain a leader in the clean energy economy, with all the jobs that it will bring. We look forward to working with Congress as the bill moves forward.”Several organizations today also publicly expressed similar views to the bill, including NextEra Energy’s Chairman and CEO Lew Hay:
“Senator Bingaman's bill provides the right incentives for the nation's electric utilities and equipment manufacturers to create good, high-paying jobs for American workers and for private capital to accelerate investment in innovative energy technologies. The bill's market-oriented standard would allow many different types of fuel sources to be competitive, while rewarding innovation, early action, efficiency and project execution.”For more information on the CES, see the Senate committee’s website for links to the press release, bill text, two-page summary, and section-by-section summary.
Photo: Sources of Emission-Free Electricity in the United States (2010).