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Senate Panel Blocks Attempt to Strike Renewable Electricity Standard

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee last Thursday rejected a Republican amendment that sought to strike the renewable electricity standard (RES) from a broad energy bill that the panel is marking up.

The vote signaled that Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) will likely have enough support to pass the RES portion of the bill when it comes up for a vote by the full committee (see related story).

The amendment, offered by Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), was defeated 9-13, with two Republicans -- Sens. Bob Corker of Tennessee and Sam Brownback of Kansas -- joining Democrats to oppose the proposal, a spokesman for the Senate energy panel said. One Democrat -- Sen. Evan Bayh of Indiana -- voted for the Sessions amendment.

The spokesman noted that 54 amendments have been offered for the RES portion of the bill, and that Bingaman hopes to deal with as many as possible during the Memorial Day recess. He said the committee would resume mark-up of the RES in early June.

The RES title calls for sellers of electricity to obtain 3% of their supplies each year from renewable energy resources or from energy efficiency improvements between 2011 and 2013; 6% annually between 2014 and 2016; 9% annually in 2017 and 2018; 12% in 2019 and 2020; and 15% annually between 2021 and 2039. Utilities that sell less than 4 million MWh/year are exempt.

To meet the standard, a seller could produce the specified percentage of electricity or efficiency itself; purchase renewable energy credits or efficiency credits from companies that have excess; or it can make compliance payments to the Department of Energy secretary at a rate of 2.1 cents/kWh. The payments would be returned to the states whose utilities have paid into the fund for development of renewable resources or to offset increases in customer bills.

Qualifying renewables to meet the RES would be wind, solar, ocean, geothermal, biomass, landfill gas, incremental hydropower, hydrokinetic and new hydropower at existing dams with no generation, according to the Senate energy panel.

Any state may opt for its utilities to meet up to 26.67% of its RES requirement by improving energy efficiency in their systems, the committee said. The items that would qualify as energy efficiency improvements would be customer facility savings, electricity savings, recycled energy and combined heat and power.

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