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Renewable Energy Standard Revived in New Energy Bill

A bipartisan group of U.S. senators will introduce legislation today that would require utilities to generate minimum levels of power from clean energy like wind and solar, after such a measure was stripped from a broader oil-spill bill in July, Reuters reports.

 Senators Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), who heads the Senate energy committee, and Sam Brownback (R-KS), will unveil the standalone bill this afternoon.

“I think that the votes are present in the Senate to pass a renewable electricity standard,” Bingaman said in a release. “I think that we need to get on with figuring out what we can pass and move forward.”

Bingaman’s office told Reuters that Senators Sue Collins (R-Maine), and Byron Dorgan (D-ND) and Tom Udall (D-NM)  would attend Today’s conference unveiling the bill.

In July, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid removed climate measures from his energy bill which were tied to legislation that responded to the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. At the time, Reid said the renewable electricity standard wouldn’t be part of the oil-spill bill because it couldn’t muster the 60 out of 100 votes that are required to pass it through the Senate.

Reid had cited a lack of Republican support for a renewable energy standard. Democrats from some states in the Midwest and South that lack strong solar and wind resources had also opposed the measure.

A month later, Reid said he hoped the renewable electricity standard could be added back to the energy bill and be passed in a lame-duck session after the Nov. 2 congressional elections because lawmakers may feel more free to vote for such a program.

Today’s legislation is very similar to one passed in Bingaman’s panel last year, Bingaman’s spokesman Bill Wicker told Bloomberg News. That mandate required 15 percent of electricity to come from renewable sources like wind, solar and biomass by 2021. The legislation would incorporate small changes, such as moving the starting date from 2011 to 2012. New hydrogen power would count as a renewable fuel under the bill, but nuclear power would not count toward the mandate.

Republicans opposing the energy standard have sought more inclusion of nuclear power in a mandate, as well as coal production using carbon capture and storage technology and hydroelectricity, according to E2 Wire.

The Energy Department’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory estimated this year that wind energy could generate 20 percent of the power needed by households and businesses in the eastern half of the United States by 2024, but would require up to $90 billion in investment.

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