Twenty three states and the District have already passed an RES, also called a renewable portfolio standard or RPS, which would require utilities to gradually increase the amount of renewable energy they use to generate electricity each year. It creates a market-based mechanism of tradable renewable energy credits – similar to the Clean Air Act trading system – allowing utilities to meet the requirements at the lowest cost.
The key provision requires a total of 15 percent of U. S. electricity to come from renewable energy sources and enhanced efficiency by 2020. The vote was a high priority for the National Audubon Society. Leading up to the vote, thousands of Audubon volunteers, chapter leaders and activists had been encouraged to call or write their member of Congress. The amendment was sponsored by Reps. Tom Udall (D-NM) and Todd Platts (R-PA).
Under the amendment, utilities would receive a credit for every kilowatt of electricity they produce from wind, solar, geothermal, tidal, ocean, and biomass energy – which includes capturing the gas from landfills and animal waste – as well as for improvements made to existing hydroelectric facilities. These credits could be traded or sold among utilities, or bought from the Department of Energy.
Studies have shown a federal RES would reduce global warming pollution and provide a significant down payment on the global warming pollution reductions scientists say will be necessary in the near term to avoid the effects of global warming down the road.
Recent analyses by the Union of Concerned Scientists found that an RES would generate new high-paying jobs in manufacturing, construction and more. Meanwhile, due to the reduced demand for fossil fuels, particularly natural gas, the policy would save consumers on their electric and natural gas bills.
The amendment passed by a vote of 220 to 190. House consideration of an RES came as part of that body's action on a broader energy bill, which was also approved today. The Senate passed its energy bill in June without an RES. The two versions now head for a conference committee.