Senators Tom Udall and Ed Markey have just proposed a bill to spur further expansion of renewable energy production from the nation’s major utilities.
This post, from the blog of the Union of Concerned Scientists (blog.ucsusa.org), details a proposal for our largest energy providers to increase the use of renewables to 30 percent by the year 2030.
The senators know that this plan must look good at all angles for it to have a fighting chance. Their new Renewable Electricity Standard (RES) addresses all concerns by claiming to be able to benefit consumers and boost the economy while achieving its primary goal of transition our country to one that is based on clean energy.
A market-based method is used to enable utilities to gradually adopt more renewable energy sources like wind, geothermal, and solar power. Basic competitive principles among renewable energy developers allow for utilities to have access to clean power at the lowest prices possible, while costs continue to fall.
The primary way in which this proposal aims to benefit consumers involves the benefits of diversifying the nation’s power mix. As more renewable energy is added, the demand and costs associated with fossil fuels like natural gas decline. This decline more than offsets the added investments in renewable energy. In fact, the study concludes that consumers will save $25 billion in electricity costs from 2015-2030.
Much of the expected renewable energy in the RES will be wind and solar power. The plan calls for our wind power capacity to reach 180 gigawatts and our solar power capacity to be 13 times higher at 152 gigawatts by 2030.
Local economies will stand to benefit greatly from this new RES. Many billions will be received via annual operations, capital investments, and property taxes.
The obvious environmental benefit entails a significant reduction in CO2 emissions by power plants. Our utilities are responsible for 40 percent of total CO2 emissions. Under the RES, these emissions can be reduced 11 percent by 2030. This amounts to removing 1.5 billion tons of CO2 between 2015 and 2030.
Major savings in public health costs are also a direct benefit of CO2 reduction. It is estimated that $40.4 billion will be saved over the next 15 years if this RES were to become law. It is important to realize that this reduction of emissions will help prevent thousands of premature deaths due to air pollution.
It can be summed up that the new Renewable Electricity Standard proposed by Udall and Markey represents a realistic and common sense approach at dealing with our carbon emissions problem. Hopefully those that are responsible for the approval of this bill can see its wisdom as well.