House bill aims to create renewable electricity standard

By Erin Voegele | December 10, 2013

On Dec. 4, Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo., introduced the Renewable Electricity Standard Act of 2013 in the U.S. House of Representatives. The bill, H.R. 3654, would establish a national renewable energy standard requiring utilities to generate 25 percent of their electricity from renewable energy sources by 2025. A similar bill was introduced in the U.S. Senate in late October by Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M.

“This is common sense legislation that ensures the United States keeps up with the 138 other countries that already have renewable energy goals or requirements in place. In 2012, Colorado ranked 6th in the nation for wind power and as a result the state has benefitted from the heightened investment and innovation that comes with more renewable energy production,” Polis said. “With a national standard, every state in the nation would be able to reap the benefits of renewable energy, which stimulates jobs and economic growth while reducing carbon emissions and slowing global warming.”

According to information released by Polis, studies have indicated a national renewable energy standard would create up to 297,000 jobs and save consumers nearly $100 billion on their utility bills by 2030. The standard would also provide up to $13.5 billion to farmers, ranchers and other landowners in the form of lease payments, while adding $11.5 billion in new local tax revenues.

Starting in 2014, the bill would require retail electric suppliers to ensure a certain percentage of the base quantity of electricity to come from renewable resources. The requirement for 2014 would be 6 percent, increasing to 25 percent in 2025. The 25 percent requirement would remain in place through 2039. Qualifying renewable power resources include biomass, landfill gas, solar, wind, ocean, tidal, geothermal energy, incremental hydropower and hydrokinetic energy.

The bill defines biomass as cellulosic organic materials used to produce energy, nonhazardous plant or algal matter derived from an agricultural crop, crop byproduct, residue resource or waste, animal waste or animal byproducts and landfill methane. On national forest land and certain other public land, qualified biomass can come from ecological forest restoration, precommercial thinnings, brush, mill residues or slash. Federal lands containing old growth forest or late successional forest are generally excluded. The text of the bill indicates electricity generated through the incineration of municipal solid waste would be excluded from the program.

Under the program, one federal renewable energy credit would be issued for each kilowatt hour of energy generated by the use of a renewable energy resource at an eligible facility. On Indian lands, two renewable energy credits for each kilowatt hour of electricity and supplied to the grid would be issued through the use of a renewable energy resource at an eligible facility located on Indian land. For renewable energy generated from biomass cofiring to qualify for this provision, biomass must be grown on the land.

To date, Reps. Ann Kuster, D-N.H., and Ben Lujan, D-N.M, have signed on to cosponsor the bill. The legislation was referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.