Analyzing Bingaman’s Renewable Energy Standard
Sen. Jeff Bingaman’s (D-N.M.) renewable energy standard, which is included as part of the broad energy bill the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee passed last year, has been criticized by environmentalists and others for being far too weak.
Now, in a last ditch effort, renewable energy advocates are calling for passage of Bingaman’s RES proposal, which requires that 15 percent of the nation’s electricity come from renewable sources like solar and wind by 2021.
What kind of impact would Bingaman’s RES have on renewable energy?
This 2009 analysis from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, a research arm of the Department of Energy, gives us some idea. The analysis is based on Bingaman’s original 20 percent by 2021 RES proposal, which was cut down to 15 percent to win support from Republicans on the committee. And the results aren’t good. The analysis finds that the Bingaman bill likely won’t increase renewable energy development beyond a business-as-usual scenario.
According to the report:
In the Bingaman case, wind builds in the 2020s are not being driven by the RES, but by favorable economics: Renewable generation exceeds the RES after 2024.
In other words, even a higher standard would have little or no effect on the creation of new wind farms. The Bingaman RES also allows 4 percent of the RES requirement to be met through energy efficiency gains. In its original form, the analysis notes that such a provision will significantly lower the “effective” requirement to get electricity from renewable sources.
By allowing energy efficiency to count toward the RES, Bingaman’s 20 percent RES actually amounts to something more like 12.1 percent, the analysis finds. With a 15 percent RES, that number is likely even lower.