Heinrich Introduces Renewable Electricity Standard Legislation

Udall-Heinrich-Whitehouse-Smith-King bill would create a federal standard for renewable electricity generation from utilities in every state; Targets would put U.S. on the pathway to decarbonize the power sector by 2050 consistent with the emission reductions recommended in the IPCC 1.5 C Special report

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), along with U.S. Senators Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), and Angus King (I–Maine), introduced legislation to achieve at least 50 percent renewable electricity nationwide in just 15 years – putting the U.S. on a trajectory to decarbonize the power sector by 2050. Starting in 2020, the Renewable Electricity Standard (RES) Act of 2019 would require electricity providers across the country to increase their supply of renewable energy from sources like wind and solar each year. The senators’ RES meets the recommendations of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 1.5 C Special Report, which outlines the standards that must be met worldwide to respond to the existential threat of climate change.

“Increased use of renewable energy will move us toward a sustainable future and a stronger economy,” said Heinrich. “The Renewable Electricity Standard Act will help chart a path to reduced dependence on fossil fuels and incentivizes stronger investments in solar and wind technologies. Transitioning to renewable energy will allow New Mexicans to save money on their monthly energy bills and will create thousands of new, high-paying jobs all across our state. We have the resources, the technology, and the human capital to modernize our grid and reach our climate goals. We just need the will.”

“Climate change poses an existential threat to our environment, public health, way of life, and security – requiring an immediate and aggressive federal response to achieve significant cuts in carbon emissions as well as other pollutants that hurt our most vulnerable communities. But the Trump administration and the majority in the Senate have turned their back on Americans and many in New Mexico who are right in the bull’s eye of climate change. 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,” said Udall. “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 Whitehouse. “Our legislation will ensure continued transition of the electricity sector from fossil fuels to clean, renewable energy.”

“America needs to lead in creating clean, affordable energy and good jobs,” said Smith. “States like Minnesota and New Mexico are developing innovative ways to expand renewable energy and put us all on a better path when it comes to public health, the health of our environment, and the strength of our economy. The federal government needs to support this work, and this bill is another example of how we are stepping up.”

“Climate change is an urgent threat to our planet that can dramatically alter ecosystems, threaten our national security, and cause major damage to local economies. Maine people are seeing its impacts in our waters, forests and lands, and understand that to respond to a crisis of this magnitude, we need a serious emphasis on renewable energy,” said King. “By setting aggressive but realistic targets, we have an opportunity to mitigate the impacts of this phenomenon, and create good, high-paying jobs in the process. This will create new economic opportunities, and fulfill our responsibility to preserve this world for the next generation. In short: it’s the right thing to do.”

Although several states, including New Mexico, have passed legislation to require at least 50 percent clean energy generation by 2030, the U.S. 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.

Increasing the supply of renewable energy is also critical in combatting the harmful health effects of air pollution from fossil fuels. Asthma is now the most common non-communicable disease in children in the U.S. In New Mexico, the asthma rate is higher than the national average. The burning, refining, and transportation of fossil fuels produce air toxins that are harmful to human health and have contributed to increased rates of asthma and other serious diseases.  ?

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), which will be turned in for compliance.  Under limited circumstances, certain existing facilities that increase their generation, repower, or are not being used to meet state RESs or voluntary market demand could also receive RECs.

• Achieves at least 50 percent electricity from renewables in the U.S. by 2035, roughly double business as usual and nearly triple current levels (17.6% in 2019).

• Requires the Secretary of Energy to submit a plan to Congress for changes to the program post-2035 to achieve zero-carbon electricity by 2050. ?

The Renewable Electricity Standard Act of 2019 has received endorsements from a wide range of groups such as American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE), American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), Appalachian Voices, Climate for Health, ecoAmerica, Environment America, Environmental Law and Policy Center, Environmental Working Group, Health Care Without Harm, Interwest Energy Alliance, League of Conservation Voters, National Wildlife Federation, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Rocky Mountain Institute , Sierra Club, Solar Energy, Industries Association (SEIA), Union of Concerned Scientists, and the Wilderness Society.

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