In order to enhance our energy security, Democrats support a national Renewable Electricity Standard (RES) that would require utilities to purchase 15 percent of their electricity from renewable energy sources including wind, solar, biomass, and geothermal by 2020. A national RES would promote domestically produced, clean energy; reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions; reduce energy costs for American consumers and businesses; and create American jobs.
The Senate has passed an RES three times, but each time, the Republican Leadership and the Bush Administration have blocked it from becoming law. RES have already been enacted in 22 states and the District of Columbia . In April 2007, 50 Senators sent a letter to the Energy Committee supporting a national RES. It is time to enact a national renewable electricity standard.
Residential savings. An analysis by the Union of Concerned Scientists using modeling from the Energy Information Administration (EIA) found that a 15 percent RES would save residential consumers $3.3 billion in electricity and natural gas costs through 2030. The increased use of renewable sources would lower the price of conventional sources of energy including natural gas, which in time would reduce the costs of both electricity generation and gas consumption for homes. (Union of Concerned Scientists, May 2007)
Economy-wide savings. Across the residential, commercial, and industrial sectors, Union of Concerned Scientists’ analysis found that a 15 percent RES would save Americans $16.3 billion in electricity and natural gas costs. These savings would be critical for energy-intensive industries like manufacturing, which have struggled as energy costs have skyrocketed during the Bush Administration. (Union of Concerned Scientists, May 2007)
Public Health and Climate Change
Cleaner air and water. An RES would result in lower emissions of mercury and lower the price of SOx allowances. Mercury is a highly toxic pollutant that causes neurological and developmental problems in infants and children. Forty-five states have issued health advisories warning pregnant women not to eat certain fish due to mercury contamination. In addition, the cost of sulfur dioxide allowances is expected to be 32 percent lower in 2025 with an RPS than without, according to the EIA. (EIA Analysis of a Ten Percent Renewable Portfolio Standard, 05/03)
Greenhouse gas emissions. The 15 percent RES would reduce U.S. carbon dioxide emissions by nearly 200 million tons per year by 2020. The states that have already enacted RES will reduce their emissions by 108 million tons per year by 2020. An analysis of a proposed 10 percent RES by the EIA found that emissions would be reduced by 225 million tons per year in 2025. That amount is equal to taking 32.4 million cars off the road. Through 2025, the RES would save more than 2.9 billion tons of carbon dioxide emissions. (Union of Concerned Scientists, “States Reach Renewable Energy Milestone,” 4/11/07; based on data from EIA letter to Senator Bingaman, 6/15/05)
Economic Growth and New Jobs
New American jobs. A recent study by the Apollo Alliance and the Urban Habitat found that renewable electricity creates American manufacturing, construction, and maintenance jobs. For every megawatt of solar photovoltaic electricity generated, about 22 jobs are created. Geothermal energy creates 10.5 jobs per megawatt, and wind energy creates 6.4 jobs per megawatt. (Apollo Alliance and Urban Habitat, “Community Jobs in the Green Economy”)
Economic growth. American energy-intenstive industries that are saving $5 billion through 2030 will be more competitive in the global market. Using clean, domestically-produced power will also help stabilize prices, allowing businesses to more accurately budget for energy costs.
Reduced energy imports. Much of the energy America imports comes from hostile, unstable parts of the world. Russia is trying to create an OPEC-style cartel for natural gas, which could manipulate natural gas supply and prices the way OPEC does. America currently imports 15 percent of our natural gas, but imports are projected to grow to 21 percent by 2025. (Wall Street Journal, 4/10/07; EIA, Annual Energy Outlook 2007, Table 13)
Military demand for renewable capacity. The military has been a leader in procurement of alternative energy sources. Army facilities currently get 7.8 percent of their power from renewable electricity sources. The Air Force is the fourth largest single purchaser of green power in the United States. In July 2006, the National Security Task Force on Energy published a report recommending several measures to improve energy security in the 21st century, including a national RES of 10 to 25 percent. (EPA Green Power Program, updated 4/9/07; Army Energy Program, “EPACT 2005 Goals and Army Progress Summary”, updated 4/11/07; National Security Task Force on Energy, “Energy Security in the 21st Century,” July 2006)