Federal renewable energy standard would help prevent energy price shocks

More than 100 organizations give support to federal renewable portfolio standard as Senate begins to construct energy legislation

provided by Union of Concerned Scientists

doption of a federal renewable energy standard would help insulate the United States from energy price shocks by diversifying energy supply, according to a report released by the Union of Concerned Scientists. The report, Clean Energy Blueprint, found that America could achieve at least 20 percent of its electricity from wind, solar, geothermal, and biomass energy sources by 2020 and save consumers money, when combined with policies to save energy.

    “This report shows that there are alternative solutions to the erratic prices and supply of commodities like natural gas,” said report author Alan Nogee, Director of Clean Energy Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists. “Adopting a renewable energy standard would diversify electricity generation, as well as reduce air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. It's time for Congress to follow twelve states and adopt this standard.”

    The report outlines a series of policies to increase US energy efficiency and renewable energy use, including a renewable portfolio standard that would require electric utilities to increase non-hydropower renewable energy from about two percent today to 20 percent of overall electricity generation by 2020.

    More than 100 organizations praised the policies outlined in the report and called on the US Senate to include them in national energy legislation.

    “The UCS report provides the sort of well-reasoned and documented analysis of all energy options, not simply those favored by the existing fossil-fuel industry, that are needed to promote energy security and favorable economics through supply diversity,” said Daniel M. Kammen, Professor of Energy and Society and Director of the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory (REAL) at the University of California, Berkeley. “A renewable energy portfolio standard provides the sort of sound, economically driven basis for a diverse and clean energy economy that should be embraced by free-market economists and environmentalists alike.”

    Renewable energy standards have already been adopted in twelve states: Arizona, Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Texas and Wisconsin.

    “Renewable portfolio standards have been a tremendous success in several states, including in President Bush's home state of Texas,” said Nogee. “If there truly is commitment to creating energy security in the US, enacting federal renewable standards will reduce the vulnerability of our energy system to disruption. It is the smart, affordable and effective option.”

    The study found that consumers would save more than $440 billion over the period 2002 to 2020, if a series of energy-efficiency and renewable energy policies recommended in the report were to become law. Energy-efficiency policies are a major component of the Clean Energy Blueprint, including new minimum efficiency standards on appliances and other equipment, tax incentives for advanced energy-saving products and matching funds for state-based energy-efficiency programs.

    “Energy-efficiency is a key foundation for achieving energy and economic savings for consumers and for increasing the energy independence of the US,” said Steven Nadel, Executive Director of the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy and a collaborator on the report. “When fully in place, the policies advocated in the report will save a typical American family $350 a year in energy costs.”

    In addition to stabilizing energy prices and supply, the policies of Clean Energy Blueprint would:

  • Reduce US use of natural gas by 31 percent and coal by nearly 60 percent and save more oil by 2020 than can be economically recovered from the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in 60 years.
  • Avoid the need for 975 new power plants, retire 180 old coal plants, retire 14 existing nuclear plants and reduce the need for hundreds of thousands of miles of new gas pipelines and electricity transmission lines.
  • Affordably reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants by two-thirds, while also reducing harmful emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides by 55 percent.
  • Enact federal energy-efficiency standards to cut energy waste and save oil and other fuels.

    “This study makes it clear that on both economic and environmental grounds, the renewable portfolio standard makes sense,” Nogee said. “And now, in our post-September 11th world, we recognize that diversifying electricity supply, as a renewable energy standard would also help reduce the security risk to our electricity generation infrastructure.”

    Clean Energy Blueprint was created with assistance from the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy and Tellus Institute. The Blueprint compares its figures with the forecast of the Energy Information Administration, the same projections used by the Department of Energy.

    The report is available on the Union of Concerned Scientists website: www.ucsusa.org/energy.