Statement Responds to Weakening Energy Legislation

Guest Blog | June 5, 2009 | Press Releases

Knoxville, Tenn. (June 5) – The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE) is voicing concern that proposals to establish a national Renewable Electricity Standard (RES) currently before Congress will fall far short of policies needed to achieve vast economic, societal and environmental benefits that renewable energy can provide.

“Some Congressional leaders are making the journey to a clean, energy-efficient economy a difficult one, consistently ignoring that a new, thriving energy system based on energy efficiency and renewable energy will create high-quality jobs and improve our nation’s security,” said Stephen A. Smith, SACE’s executive director. “A national RES of at least 25 percent by 2025 is the policy we need to help America realize the benefits of our home-grown resources. This is a critical moment when we need our political leaders to take bold action.”

Yesterday, the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources began consideration of a Renewable Energy Standard that would require 15 percent renewable energy by 2021, with up to 4 percent satisfied by energy efficiency. Unfortunately, this already modest proposal was further weakened by an amendment offered by Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) that would exclude new nuclear reactors and expansions at existing facilities from the baseline of utility electricity sales, effectively reducing renewable energy production targets. Fortunately, Sen. Corker’s efforts to provide exemptions for all existing and new nuclear power plants failed.

On Thursday, May 21, the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce voted to pass the American Clean Energy and Security Act. Although the legislation began with a 25 percent renewable energy goal by 2025, negotiations reduced the bill’s targets significantly. The bill now includes a Combined Efficiency and Renewable Energy Standard (CERES) that sets a 20 percent by 2020 target but allows 5 percent of the target to be met through energy efficiency. With provisions that allow states to petition for up to eight percent energy efficiency and exemptions for electricity providers whose annual electricity sales are less than 4 million megawatt hours (MWh), our analysis shows that these policies may not require any more renewable energy development than current laws. SACE believes strongly that generation rules, such as an energy efficiency renewable standard and a renewable energy standard, should be created separately.

“The bill as passed by committee also allows new nuclear reactors and fossil fuel plants with carbon capture and sequestration to be excluded from the baseline of utility electricity sales, used to determine the renewable energy targets. This weakens the bill tremendously,” said Smith. “Substituting expensive and polluting energy resources for renewable energy resources will not deliver the new jobs and economic security our nation deserves.”

SACE is disappointed in Southeastern Representatives who failed to champion and build support for effective renewable and energy efficiency standards. Unfortunately, Rep. Bart Gordon (D-Tenn.) supported weakening measures instead of the earlier draft of the bill, which would have generated more jobs for Tennessee. Rep. John Barrow (D-Ga.) supported a failed amendment that would have allowed any low-emission resource, including nuclear reactors, to satisfy the renewable energy targets. It is gravely disappointing that Rep. Barrow has continued to ignore the strong renewable energy potential throughout Georgia and the Southeast. Southern Company and their utility partners have proposed two new nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle in Rep. Barrow’s district.

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