On March 21, 2011, Senators Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) released a white paper asking for input on a clean energy standard (“CES”).  The white paper asks six general policy questions that the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee now faces before developing and implementing a CES program.  Within each of the six categories of questions, the Senate Committee asks thirty-six more specific policy questions to assist with designing a CES program.  The white paper also asks as a threshold question, what are the policy goals for the industry and whether a CES is the most effective way of achieving those goals.

In the most recent State of the Union address, President Obama proposed a CES of 80 percent of the nation’s power to come from clean energy resources by 2035.  The white paper also asks if CES is the appropriate policy, is the 80 percent by 2035 the correct goal.  Based on current data from the Energy Information Administration the current composition of electricity generation is twenty percent nuclear, ten percent renewable resources (hydropower, wind, solar, geothermal, and biomass), twenty-five percent natural gas, and forty-five percent coal.  If nuclear and renewable were to count as part of the CES, then the United States is currently already at 30 percent of the president’s goal.  That number is even higher if combined cycle gas counted towards the CES.

The six main questions that the Senate Committee asks are:

  1. What should be the threshold for inclusion in the new CES program?
  2. What resources qualify as “clean energy?”
  3. How should the crediting system and timetables be designed?
  4. How will a CES affect the deployment of specific technologies?
  5. How should alternative compliance payments, regional costs, and consumer protections be addressed?
  6. How would CES interact with other policies?

Submissions to the white paper are due by April 11, 2011.

A copy of the CES whitepaper is available here.