Clean Energy: - Sierra Club – Ohio Chapter

Clean Energy: - Sierra Club – Ohio Chapter

Explore, enjoy and protect the planet

Clean Energy:

adopting a National Renewable Electricity Standard

Clean Energy

adopting a National Renewable Electricity Standard

The technology exists today to

power our homes and businesses

with clean, renewable energy

sources like wind and solar

power. But instead of putting

this homegrown energy to work,

the United States produces just

2 percent of its electricity from

renewable energy while the

rest of our supply comes from

polluting energy sources, such

as coal. As a result, electricity

production is a leading cause

of global warming, smog, soot,

and mercury pollution across the

country. Investing in renewable

energy sources would not only

curb global warming and protect

the environment - it would lower

consumer energy bills, spur

economic development and

create thousands of new jobs.

The Renewable Electricity

Standard (RES) is a market-based

policy that gradually requires

utilities to increase the percentage

of electricity they produce from

renewable energy sources, such

as wind, biomass, geothermal,

and solar energy. This is a proven

policy to increase renewable

energy production. According

to the Department of Energy, a

20 percent Renewable Electricity

Standard by 2020 is not only

technically feasible, but it is also


Already, over twenty-two states

and the District of Columbia have

enacted a RES. These successful

state programs demonstrate the

effectiveness of the RES. Despite

this state-level momentum, we

need a national standard in the

near future to prompt action from

the balance of the states and

encourage greater reliance on

clean renewable energy sources

to power America’s homes and


Investing in renewable energy

would not only diversify our

nation’s energy sources, it would

also protect the environment.

Electricity production accounts

for nearly 40 percent of U.S.

greenhouse gas emissions. Under

a 20 percent by 2020 RES, we

would reduce 511 million tons

of global warming pollution – a

reduction equivalent to taking

89 million cars off the road. The

RES would also help reduce smog,

soot, and mercury pollution

from power plants. The RES is

also a tremendous economic

boon. According to the Union

of Concerned Scientists (UCS) a

standard requiring 20 percent

renewable energy production by

2020 would create over 355,000

new jobs, save over $12.6 billion

on energy bills, and provide

over $70 billion in new capital

investments across the country.

Legislative Outlook

There is a tremendous amount of

support in the new Congress for

a national Renewable Electricity

Standard. It is strongly supported

by the Democratic leadership

and caucus, as well as many

Republicans. In previous years,

a Renewable Energy Standard

passed the full Senate on three

separate occasions. However, the

House has never had a floor vote

on the issue.

With new leadership in the House,

we expect votes on renewable

energy this year, and perhaps as

soon as this summer. A national

Renewable Electricity Standard could be included in the July. Energy Independence package that Speaker

Pelosi is preparing.

However, challenges loom. Already some politicians are attempting to include non-renewable energy

sources, such as nuclear power and ‘clean’ coal in the legislation. At the same time, efforts may emerge to

lower the overall renewable energy requirement or attach bad energy legislation if this package begins to

move through Congress.

House of Representatives

The Energy & Commerce committee has jurisdiction over renewable energy legislation. Unfortunately, the

chair of the key subcommittee, Rep. Rick Boucher (D-VA) has been a staunch opponent of the RES, since he

may see the proposal as a potential threat to the coal interests in his district. While we may be able to secure

enough votes on committee to pass a RES, it will be by a very tight margin. Much like our strategy on fuel

economy, we will need to build sufficient support both on and off the Energy & Commerce committee to

create the demand for floor action. The Democratic leadership could possibly agree to a strategy to attach

a Renewable Electricity Standard to another piece of legislation (energy or otherwise) during debate the

House floor.

Sierra Club Supports the Udall (D-NM) – Platts (R-PA) Renewable Energy Standard – H.R. 969

• The legislation would require most utilities nationwide to produce 20 percent of their electricity from

renewable energy sources by 2020.

• The legislation creates nationwide tradable ‘renewable energy credits,’ allowing utilities around the country

to buy and sell renewable energy credits. This creates competition among renewable energy generators,

providing the greatest amount of clean power for the lowest price.

• H.R. 969 also allows regions with the least expensive renewable energy production to exceed the

requirements and then sell those credits to regions where renewable energy production is not as costeffective

– keeping overall rates low.


A Renewable Electricity Standard has passed the Senate three times over the past five years. While some of

our past RES supporters are no longer in the Senate, we believe we still have over 50 votes. Whether there

are the 60 votes necessary to overcome a potential filibuster is still unknown. We do have the support of

the Democratic leadership, much of the Democratic caucus, and the relevant committee chair, Sen. Jeff

Bingaman (D-NM). It is very likely that a national Renewable Electricity Standard will pass out of the Senate

Energy and Natural Resources committee this spring or summer and this will add more pressure to bring the

legislation to the senate floor.

Sierra Club Supports the Bingaman (D-NM) – Energy Efficiency Promotion Act

This legislation is not yet formally introduced, however, we expect Senators Bingaman to introduce

legislation establishing a Renewable Energy Standard to produce 15 percent of our electricity from

renewable energy sources by 2020.

Renewable Electricity Standard Talking Points

• Power plants are our largest source of global warming pollution. Tackling global warming will require

moving away from the dirty technologies of yesterday toward technologies like wind and solar that can

offer us reliable, reasonably-priced, and pollution-free energy.

• Wind and solar are here today. We don’t have to bank on unproven future advances to control pollution or

reduce emissions. We should dramatically increase our use of these clean renewable technologies today.

• Renewable Electricity Standards (RES) are a proven policy to increase production of clean energy sources.

Twenty-two states and the District of Columbia have already established an RES.

• Everyone has a part to play in solving global warming. The government’s job is to set the kind of policies

that will encourage the market to make the right investments.

• Setting a national Renewable Electricity Standard ensures that there will be a stable, guaranteed demand

for renewable energy. This kind of certainty will encourage significant investments in renewables.

• The new Sierra Club roadmap for tackling global warming, based on a report by the American Solar Energy

Society, shows that by using efficiency and renewable energy sources alone, we can make the kind of

emissions reductions we need. A national Renewable Electricity Standard is a

critical first step in this process.

• Investing in renewable energy can revive the American manufacturing sector.

According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, a 20 percent RES by 2020 would

create over 350,000 new good-paying jobs across the country. At the same time it

would generate billions of dollars in capital investment.

• Scientists emphasize that we can achieve early reductions in global warming

emissions by setting performance standards for different sectors, such as higher

fuel economy standards, energy efficiency, and Renewable Electricity Standards.

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