House panel’s climate bill has renewables standard including hydro

A House committee has endorsed climate change legislation including a renewable electricity standard that would require utilities to increase the amount of power they obtain from renewable energy sources including some hydropower and ocean energy.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee voted 33-25 on May 21, 2009, to advance the American Clean Energy and Security Act containing a “cap and trade” climate change initiative backed by President Obama. The measure next goes to the House Ways and Means Committee to review tax and trade impacts of the measure. Assuming other committee approvals, the full House could act on a bill by August, officials said.

The bill includes a clean energy title that promotes renewable sources of energy, carbon capture and sequestration, and a “smart” electricity transmission grid.

Included in the title is a “Combined Efficiency and Renewable Electricity Standard.” As endorsed by the committee, the renewable electricity standard — sometimes called a renewables portfolio standard — requires retail electricity suppliers that sell more than 4 million megawatt-hours per year to meet a percentage of their load from renewable energy sources or from energy savings.

The combined renewable energy and electricity savings requirement begins at 6 percent in 2012 and gradually increases to 20 percent in 2020. Up to a fourth of the 20 percent requirement may be met by electricity savings. However, upon petition by a state governor, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission would be authorized to increase the proportion of compliance met by electricity savings within the particular state, up to 8 percent from savings.

Incremental hydro, marine, hydrokinetic to be eligible

The legislation defines eligible renewable energy sources to include incremental hydropower, marine and other hydrokinetic energy, and wind, biomass, solar, and geothermal sources.

Incremental hydropower is defined as improvements since Jan. 1, 1992, to existing hydro projects and addition since that date of new generating facilities to existing water resources projects. Such projects also must be licensed or exempted by FERC and be “operated so that the water surface elevation at any given location and time that would have occurred in the absence of the hydroelectric project is maintained, subject to any license or exemption requirements that require changes in water surface elevation for the purpose of improving the environmental quality of the affected waterway.”

The bill also would allow utilities to exclude existing hydropower from their base amount of electricity when calculating the amount of renewable energy they must obtain.

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee is working on similar legislation. (HydroWorld 2/11/09) On May 21, the panel voted down an amendment by Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., that would have removed the renewable electricity standard from its energy package.

The Senate committee is to continue action on the renewable electricity standard when Congress returns from its Memorial Day holiday recess.

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