• Senate Energy Committee Seeks Input on Clean Energy Standard
  • April 1, 2011 | Authors: Todd R. Coles; Clifford S. Sikora; Bonnie A. Suchman
  • Law Firm: Troutman Sanders LLP - Washington Office
  • On March 21, 2011, Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) and Ranking Member Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) released a white paper seeking industry input on key questions and potential design elements of a national Clean Energy Standard (“CES”). The purpose of this request is to “solicit input from a broad range of interested parties, to facilitate discussion, and to ascertain whether or not consensus can be achieved.” The Committee is asking whether CES is the right policy for the nation at this time and, if it is, what would be the right target for a national standard.

    The Committee is seeking industry input on such design questions as the interaction of the federal mandate with the existing state mandates, the types of resources that should qualify as clean energy, and the types of compliance payments for utilities that cannot meet the program requirements. A number of the questions offered have their genesis in the Committee’s earlier Renewable Electricity Standard proposal, while other questions relate directly to the broadening of the scope of the proposal to include nuclear, natural gas, and coal with carbon capture and storage.

    In his recent State of the Union address, the President called for a CES that requires that 80 percent of the nation’s electricity come from clean energy technologies. During the last Congress, the Senate Energy Committee was successful in voting out of committee an energy bill that included a 15 percent RES mandate. However, a number of factors may impact the Committee’s consideration of a CES in this Congress. First, the composition of the Committee has changed, with a number of new Democratic and Republican members this year. Further, the 2010 elections resulted in a change in leadership in the House and a smaller Democratic majority in the Senate. Finally, the expansion of the proposal to include nuclear plants may encounter new resistance in light of recent events in Japan.