Senate Agrees on Less Controversial Renewable Energy Measure

Washington, D.C. -- The U.S. Senate agreed last week on an energy bill provision, S. 517, that would require investor-owned utilities to have by 2005 a 1 percent renewable generation standard, which then would increase 0.6 percent per year until 10 percent of their power is generated from the sun, wind and landfill gas (LFG) by 2020. The vote rejects earlier measures by Sens. Jim Jeffords, I-Vt., and Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., for a more environmentally friendly policy.

The Senate also rejected two other amendments to exempt states from a federal renewable standard if they have their own renewable energy programs in place, and to allow states to pull out of the federal program if consumers suffer from high electricity prices.

Fourteen states already require that some power comes from renewable energy sources, and at least 10 other states have set goals or are considering a mandate for renewable energy use.

However, environmentalists say that because of certain exemptions and other provisions, the amount of total electricity produced from renewable resources may total less than 5 percent by 2020. Currently, less than 2 percent of electricity comes from renewable resources, with about 70 percent from coal and natural gas, 20 percent from nuclear power plants and the rest from hydroelectric dams.

The Senate will resume consideration of the energy legislation when it returns from Easter recess on April 8. The House recently passed a separate energy bill, which contained no renewable energy provisions.

Meantime, President George W. Bush signed an economic stimulus package last week that will extend tax credits for facilities producing electricity from such renewable energy sources and extends tax credits for qualifying electricity facilities placed into service before Jan. 1, 2004.