A key US lawmaker said Wednesday he will introduce a bill Thursday to implement an "inclusive" clean energy standard that will closely track a proposal advocated by President Barack Obama.
Senator Jeff Bingaman, a New Mexico Democrat who chairs the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said his bill would offer full or partial credits to utilities generating electricity through technologies that produce fewer carbon emissions than current supercritical coal-fired generation, including wind, solar, so-called "clean" coal, natural gas and nuclear options.
Obama, in his two most recent State of the Union addresses, has called for utilities to generate 80% of their power from these clean-energy sources by 2035.
"I think it's an important discussion to have this year," Bingaman told the ARPA-E Energy Innovation Summit, which is being held just outside Washington. "It's important to examine a concrete proposal for how a clean energy standard might be conducted. Our system of on-and-off tax incentives has not proven to be the sort of sustained signal that is needed in order to unleash innovation in the marketplace."
Under a clean energy standard, utilities would receive credits based on how much low-carbon electricity they generate.
Bingaman, who is retiring at the end of this Congress, said that under his bill, zero-carbon sources, such as new nuclear and renewables, would get full credits. Clean coal generation, such as from oxyfuel combustion, would receive partial credits, and natural gas generation would receive about a half credit.
Utilities would be required to accumulate a certain number of credits to meet the clean energy standard, and Bingaman said that threshold would be "easy to meet" initially but become more stringent over time.
The result, he said, would be a "more realistic and predictable market for advanced electricity generation."
Obama sought to gain Republican support for his clean energy standard by including nuclear, clean coal and natural gas in it, and while some Republicans have voiced support for the plan, others insist it will be an overburdensome mandate on utilities that will drive up electricity prices for consumers.
Bingaman's bill likely faces long odds in the Democrat-controlled Senate, which requires 60 votes to pass even routine bills in what is a highly partisan environment, and even a slimmer chance of passing the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.
Bingaman, who has for months been trying to gather support behind the scenes for the clean energy standard, acknowledged the political difficulties, but said he hopes that once the November elections are over, some consensus could be achieved.
"We face a challenging environment this year in terms of passing energy legislation," he said. "We may have to wait until the result of this election is in before we can move forward."