Nuclear and cleaner coal would be considered eligible sources in an alternate clean energy standard proposed in the US Senate last week.
The Clean Energy Standard Act of 2010 introduced by Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) would require utilities to obtain 13% of their energy from clean sources by 2013, increasing to 20% by 2020 and continuing to rise by 5% every five years through 2050.
But unlike current proposals for a federal renewable electricity standard (RES), clean energy sources would include coal – if at least 65% of greenhouse gas emissions are captured and sequestered – and new nuclear, as well as renewable energy. The bill would also expand the definitions of biomass and hydroelectric, for example to include more types of forest materials.
Under Graham’s proposal, utilities would be allowed to buy, sell and bank credits for use during subsequent years and would be given credits for early retirement of high-emitting fossil fuel generation facilities. They would also be able to make payments of 3.5 cents per kilowatt hour (adjusted for inflation) in lieu of compliance or to use federal energy efficiency credits to meet up to 25% of the total.
The impact of Graham’s bill on the push for a federal RES this year is unclear. Some are concerned that it could siphon votes from a bill introduced last month by Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-New Mexico) and Sam Brownback (R-Kansas) that they hope to push forward during the ‘lame-duck’ session, the time between the November elections and before the new Congress is seated in January.
Four Republicans and 28 Democrats are co-sponsoring the Bingaman-Brownback bill, but Graham’s proposal could conceivably draw the support of Republicans and Democrats from states dependent on coal or nuclear power.
Graham indicated that he would be willing to compromise, but Bingaman reportedly is opposed to including nuclear power as an eligible source, because such a move would likely cost him votes in the liberal wing of the Democratic Party.
By. Gloria Gonzalez