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Gloria Gonzalez

Gloria Gonzalez

Gloria is a writer for Environmental Finance.Environmental Finance is the leading global publication covering the ever-increasing impact of environmental issues on the lending, insurance, investment…

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US Clean Energy Targets to Include Coal and Nuclear Power

The next US Congress has its sights on a clean energy standard (CES) that includes clean coal and new nuclear technology rather than a federal renewable electricity standard (RES), a shift that Barack Obama’s administration seems willing to embrace.

Barring a miraculous comeback, a federal RES is dead for the current session of Congress, particularly with renewable energy advocates devoting all their resources and advocacy efforts toward their most immediate priority: an extension of the Section 1603 Treasury grant programme.

With Republicans set to assume control of the House and take more seats in the Senate in January, increasing chatter on energy policy has focused on a more comprehensive standard that would go beyond a pure RES to include nuclear and carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) technologies.

“Renewable is out,” said John Juech, vice-president, policy analysis for consultancy Garten Rothkopf in Washington, DC. “Clean is the new language.”

The Obama administration seems ready to embrace this shift, with Secretary of Energy Steven Chu urging Congress to consider a CES that includes nuclear and clean coal in pursuit of a target of 50% of the electricity mix by 2050 target.

“I think lawmakers are coming to the conclusion that a clean energy standard will encompass more technologies and get us faster down the road,” said Joshua Freed, director of the clean energy programme of centrist think-tank Third Way.

Renewable energy advocates seem resigned to a more inclusive standard. In the new Congress, the renewable energy and ‘emerging’ clean technology supporters will come together to hammer out an agreement, predicted Rhone Resch, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association. The guiding intent should be to displace as much polluting coal and natural gas as possible and scale-up 21st century technologies such as renewable energy, clean coal and new nuclear, he said.

“The clean energy standard is something we would expect to see as part of an energy bill in the next Congress,” Resch said. “The structure is still to be determined.”

A more inclusive standard would be appealing to legislators from regions heavily dependent on coal and supportive of nuclear power, but others would be ready to argue that neither nuclear nor clean coal should count as clean energy sources and are likely to try to limit their inclusion in any standard.

“While it’s important to be open-minded, there does come a point where if everything is included it becomes a little meaningless,” Representative Chris Van Hollen (D-Maryland) told attendees of the American Council for Renewable Energy’s policy forum last week. “The more things you put in, the more you dilute the incentive for wind, solar, biomass and all the other energy sources that we more traditionally think of in the clean energy arena.”

But anyone who believes climate change is an existential threat needs to be willing to embrace any options to reduce emissions, Freed said. “You can’t be serious about reducing emissions and rule nuclear out of the equation,” he said.

Congress will have to ensure that the federal standard does not undermine state renewable portfolio standards, said Ron Pernick, managing director of research and advisory firm Clean Edge. Several states have at least 20% by 2020 or 25% by 2025 targets, which a federal standard would not come close to matching, and the vast majority exclude nuclear and clean coal as qualifying energy sources, he noted.

“You have to make sure the states don’t lose the ability to have stronger standards,” Pernick said.

By. Gloria Gonzalez

Source: Environmental-Finance

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  • Anonymous on December 21 2010 said:
    By all means, let's spread the non-existent US federal funds around as widely as possible. Arrange your chair on the deck of the Titanic in the best possible position.At least with nuclear power, you can actually rely on the energy being produced. But why do the fools insist upon neutering a marvelous technology like coal IGCC by burdening it down with exorbitantly expensive carbon capture?
  • Anonymous on December 23 2010 said:
    CCS. If you want to really find out about that you should come to Europe, to Germany, and get the thoughts of the previous CEO of the utility Vattenfall on that subject. But make sure that you have a bottle of good German rotgut in your hand as he tells you about it, because if you know a lot of economics or maybe a little thermodynamics, you are going to hear something that will make you lose your faith in the industrial world.
  • Anonymous on December 23 2010 said:
    Check out Vice President Cheney's energy report to G W Bush in his first term (almost impossible to find) and Marchetti's energy replacement theory published in about 1971. After due consideration of these two items I conclude that information, rational thought and science is of no use to our Congress and all our current hopes are wishes that will go filled with coal until the lights go out.After a life filled with designing energy plants of all sizes, I am appalled with how much government has done to suppress growth in this area through irrelevent regulations.So many times I have seen industry, lenders and engineering companies ready to give us what we need and government crush the life out of it.Truly, we have met the enemy and he is us.
  • Anonymous on December 25 2010 said:
    Mark, governments and the people who run them are not interested in what you call "us". They are interested in another term in office. In being around indefinitely if they cant arrange for something better in civvy street. I'm surprised though to hear the Cheney was wrong about energy. Admittenly the guy was no good, but I was always impressed by his position on energy resources.

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