Renewable energy has achieved tremendous gains in recent years. Much of that growth can be attributable to government standards that require utilities to move away from fossil fuels. Many states have adopted renewable energy portfolio standards (RPS). Now, the federal government may step in where other states have not.
In June, several U.S. Senators introduced a bill that would create a nationwide RPS. The Renewable Electricity Standard Act of 2019 is sponsored by U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-N.M.), along with U.S. Senators Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.) and Angus King (I–Maine). It would require electricity providers across the country to increase their supply of renewable energy.
Specifically, the bill would create a federal floor-setting standard that requires each retail electricity provider to increase its supply of renewable energy by a specified percentage of total retail sales each year, starting in 2020. In the first year, providers would be required to increase their supply of renewables by 1.5%. That percentage would go up incrementally each year, reaching 2.5% in 2035.
According to the bill’s authors, this formula would put the country on a path to achieve at least 50% electricity from renewables by 2035, which they say is roughly double the current rate of growth and nearly triple current levels of 17.6% in 2018. They also believe this will set the country on course to achieve zero-carbon electricity by 2050.
For Senator Udall, the legislation is imperative.
“America can no longer afford inaction on climate change,” Udall said.
According to the American Wind Energy Association, roughly half the states in the country have adopted an RPS, and many of these have thresholds at or exceeding 50 percent.
However, the bill’s authors believe the United States will be unable to take significant steps in addressing climate change unless every state increases its clean energy deployment. They add that creating a federal standard also ensures no state is at a disadvantage in the race to embrace renewables.