On September 21, 2010, a bipartisan group of Senators introduced the Renewable Electricity Promotion Act, a stand alone renewable energy standard (“RES”) bill.  The bill will require utilities to acquire 3 percent of their power from renewable resources beginning in 2012, and the requirement will increase up to 15 percent by 2021.  The bill was introduced by Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) and Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS), and the bill is currently co-sponsored by twenty-two other senators. 

In order to meet the 15 percent RES standard, states will also have the flexibility of allowing their utilities to meet a portion of their standard through efficiency improvements.  Therefore, some utilities will have the option to meet up to 4 percent of the standard through efficiency improvements that include utilizing electricity savings, recycled power, customer facility savings, and combined heat and power facilities.  

The qualifying types of renewable resources are wind, solar, ocean, biomass, landfill gas, incremental and new hydropower, and qualified waste to energy plants.  The RES will not count existing nuclear, hydropower generation, or carbon sequestration facilities towards meeting the new RES standard.  However, utilities will not be forced to produce the power themselves.  Instead, the bill also gives utilities the option of buying renewable energy from other utilities or buying renewable energy credits from companies that exceed the minimum standard.  Additionally, the utilities will be allowed to make compliance payments to the Department of Energy. 

Bingaman introduced the bill in hopes of garnering enough support to pass the bill without amendments.  The stand alone bill is very similar to last year’s RES provision in S. 1462 that passed through the Senate Energy Committee, and this bill has already received the support of some republicans.  In addition to Brownback, three other republicans, Senators John Ensign (NV), Susan Collins (ME), and Chuck Grassley (IA) have endorsed the bill.   The stand alone bill needs sixty votes to overcome a filibuster, but with the upcoming election it is uncertain if the bill will have the votes necessary to survive.

A copy of the text of the legislation is available here.