UPDATE – Senate could debate renewables portfolio with hydro, ocean

The U.S. Senate might vote later this month on a proposal to impose a renewables portfolio standard on utilities that would include an incentive to develop incremental hydropower at existing facilities as well as renewable power at ocean energy projects.

A vehicle for that proposal was advanced May 2 by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, which endorsed the markup of a proposed bill to improve energy efficiency, promote renewable fuels diversity, and invest in research on carbon sequestration.

The proposed bill currently contains no renewables portfolio language. However, Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., said he would try to amend it on the Senate floor to include a requirement that, by 2020, 15 percent of U.S. electricity supplies be generated by renewable energy sources, including incremental hydropower installed at existing hydro plants or water resources facilities. It also would include energy from wave, tidal, or other ocean-powered projects.

If Bingaman acts, it would be the fourth time a federal renewables portfolio standard for electricity production has been attempted in Congress. (HNN 3/19/07) Three times before it passed the Senate, only to be felled by a Republican-controlled House of Representatives.

Bingaman is confident, with Democrats now controlling the House, a federal standard can be set, his spokesman said.

More than 20 states have established renewables portfolio standards requiring green power production. At least 12 of them are at least as stringent as Bingaman’s proposal.

“This is an issue where the states are ahead of the federal government,” said Bill Wicker, spokesman for Bingaman and the Senate Energy Committee. “There is no federal pre-emption of existing state renewable portfolio standards.”

Incremental hydro to be eligible for portfolio

Wicker said existing hydropower projects or any nuclear power plants would not be considered renewable power.

�Incremental hydro is considered a renewable; existing hydro is not,� Wicker said. �That is, improvements made to existing hydro facilities to increase efficiency or capacity would be included.�

Wicker said the renewables portfolio would be offered on the Senate floor because support for the provision is stronger in the full Senate than in the Energy Committee itself. Wicker said Bingaman got a letter May 1 signed by 50 of the chamber’s 100 senators. Add Bingaman to the count and a Senate majority “is on the record saying they will support it,” Wicker said.

Bingaman said Democratic leaders might have the Senate take up the energy bill this month. If the legislation is accepted by the Senate, it still must be approved by the House and signed by President Bush before it could become law.
Bingaman aide corrects statement: Ocean energy included


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