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Senators Seek 50% Renewable Electricity in Every State

July 3, 2019


Legislation being introduced in the US, the Renewable Electricity Standard (RES) Act of 2019, would require electricity providers throughout the country to increase their use of renewable energy from sources such as wind and solar from 2020.

The Udall-Heinrich-Whitehouse-Smith-King bill proposed by Senator Tom Udall from New Mexico and others would create a federal standard for renewable electricity generation from utilities in every state. Targets would put US on the pathway to decarbonise the power sector by 2050 consistent with the emission reductions recommended in the IPCC 1.5 C Special report.

US Senator Tom Udall (D-NM), along with US Senators Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Tina Smith (D-Minn), and Angus King (I–Maine), introduced the legislation, which aims to achieve “at least 50% renewable electricity nationwide in just 15 years.”

Numerous states on the east coast of the US have committed to developing offshore wind and the US accounted for almost half of the growth in the offshore wind market in the last 12 months, according to analysis by a leading renewable energy body. Figures from RenewableUK showed that the US market accounted for 48% of growth globally. The US has overtaken China (12 GW) and Taiwan (8.9 GW) to become the third-largest global market as the pipeline of American offshore wind projects has grown to 15.7 GW, up from 7.5 GW in 2018. Legislation has been passed in the state of New York that aims to achieve a carbon neutral economy by 2050, zero carbon emissions by 2040 and 9.0 GW of offshore wind by 2035.

Senator Udall said, “As states step up with legislation to increase the use of renewable energy, the entire country needs to follow suit – or it will soon be too late. America can no longer afford inaction on climate change. That is why I am proud to introduce legislation that meets this challenge and demonstrates that America is still a leader in renewable energy.”

“Electricity sector emissions are a large contributor to climate change and we need to significantly ramp up the use of clean energy to blunt global temperature increases,” said Senator Whitehouse. “Our legislation will ensure the continued transition of the electricity sector from fossil fuels to clean, renewable energy.”

Although several states, including New Mexico, have passed legislation to require at least 50% clean energy generation by 2030, the US will be unable to take significant steps in addressing climate change unless every state increases its clean energy deployment.

The RES would set a national standard to ensure that investment in renewables and fighting climate change is a nationwide priority.  By requiring utilities in every state to increase their share of renewables at or above the federal floor and excluding existing renewable generation, no state is at a disadvantage because of where they are starting from.

The Renewable Electricity Standard Act of 2019 would create a federal floor-setting standard that requires each retail electricity provider to increase its supply of renewable energy by a percentage of total retail sales each year, starting in 2020.

Each kilowatt hour of electric energy generated by a new renewable resource will be entitled to a Renewable Electricity Credit (REC).

The legislation has received endorsements from a wide range of groups such as American Council on Renewable Energy, American Wind Energy Association, Appalachian Voices, Environment America, Environmental Law and Policy Center, Environmental Working Group, Interwest Energy Alliance, League of Conservation Voters, National Wildlife Federation, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Sierra Club, Solar Energy, Industries Association, Union of Concerned Scientists, and the Wilderness Society.

“We commend Senator Udall for introducing the Renewable Electricity Standard Act. The bill would drive investment in our nation’s power generation infrastructure, improve affordability and reliability for consumers, and accelerate the ongoing transition to America’s renewable energy economy.”

The full text of the bill text can be found here. A summary of the bill can be found here.

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