Upon Introduction of S. 2146, The Clean Energy Standard Act of 2012

March 1, 2012

“Mr. President, I would send a bill to the desk entitled the Clean Energy Standard Act of 2012 and ask that it be appropriately referred.

“Mr. President, let me take a few minutes to describe this legislation for my colleagues, and urge them to seriously consider this legislation. It is introduced by me with several cosponsors: Senator Wyden, Senator Sanders, Senator Mark Udall from Colorado, Senator Franken, Senator Coons, Senator Kerry, Senator Whitehouse and Senator Tom Udall from my home state of New Mexico.  All of those individuals support what we’re trying to do in this legislation. 

"I particularly want to thank the staff of the Senate Energy Committee for the hard work they put in to developing this proposal.  In particular, Kevin Rennert, who worked very hard on this proposal and got a lot of very useful input from mnay sectors and many individuals.

“This is a simple plan to modernize the power sector and guide it towards a future in which more and more of our electricity is generated with cleaner and cleaner energy.  

“The purpose of the legislation is to make sure that, as we continue to grow and power our economy, we leverage the clean resources we have available today and also provide a continuing incentive to develop the cheaper, cleaner technologies that will be needed in the future.

“We want to make sure that we drive continued diversity in our energy sources, and allow every region to deploy clean energy using the appropriate resources for that region.

“We want to make sure that we do all of this in a way that supports home-grown innovation and manufacturing and keeps us competitive in the global clean energy economy.

“The plan that we’re putting forward in this legislation would implement a Clean Energy Standard, or CES, for short.  Here’s how it works:

“Starting in 2015, the largest utilities in the country would meet the Clean Energy Standard by showing that a certain percentage of the electricity they sell is produced from clean energy sources. The initial percentage for 2015 is within the capabilities of those utilities today, and each year after 2015, they would be required to sell a little bit more of their electricity from clean sources.  They can do so either by making incremental adjustments to their own energy mix to become cleaner and more efficient, or by purchasing clean energy from those that can provide it at the lowest cost, or by purchasing credits on an open and transparent market.

“To be considered ‘clean’, a generator must either be a zero-carbon source of energy, such as renewables and nuclear power, or have a lower carbon intensity than a modern, efficient coal plant.  By carbon intensity, I mean the amount of carbon dioxide emitted per megawatt-hour of electricity generated.

“Generators with low or no carbon intensity receive credits based on that criterion.  For example, renewables receive a full credit per megawatt-hour.  Most natural gas generators would qualify for something around a half-credit, and the more efficient natural gas generators would be incentivized compared to less efficient generators.  A coal-powered plant would receive some credits if it lowered its carbon intensity by installing carbon capture technologies or by co-firing with renewable biomass.

“Accounting for ‘clean’ in this way means that the cleanest resources have the greatest incentive. Also, it means that every generator has a continuing incentive to become even more efficient.

“As the standard increases over time, the generation fleet will transition naturally toward cleaner and cleaner sources to meet it. The Clean Energy Standard sets an overall goal for clean energy, but the optimal and cheapest set of technologies to use will be determined by the free market. The rate of transition is predictable and achievable, and the rules of the road are transparent and they are clear.

“In addition to driving cleaner electricity generation in the power sector, the Clean Energy Standard also rewards industrial efficiency. Combined heat and power units generate electricity while also capturing and using the heat for other purposes and these units are treated as clean generators under this proposal for a Clean Energy Standard. This will help to deploy this kind of efficiency, and provides another source of inexpensive clean energy.

“Now Madame President, let me describe what this proposal does not do. The Clean Energy Standard does not put a limit on overall emissions.  It does not limit the growth of electricity generation to meet the demands of a growing economy. All that the Clean Energy Standard requires is that the generation we do use in future years and that we add to our fleet gradually becomes more clean over time.

“The Clean Energy Standard does not cost the government anything and it does not raise money for the government to use either. If any money does come to the Treasury as a result of the program because of refusal to participate or to comply, that money would go directly back to the particular State from which it came to fund energy efficiency programs.  

“Finally, the Clean Energy Standard will not hurt the economy. This past fall, I asked the Energy Information Administration to analyze a number of Clean Energy Standard policy options for me. The results of their study showed that a properly designed Clean Energy Standard would have almost zero impact on gross domestic product growth and little or no impact on nationally averaged electricity rates for the first decade of the program.  The Energy Information Administration analysis did show that a Clean Energy Standard would result in a substantial deployment of new clean energy, and carbon reductions of between 20 and 40 percent in the power sector by 2035, which is the timeframe provided for in the proposal.

“I have asked the Energy Information Administration to update their modeling to reflect this final proposal that we’re introducing today. When they have completed that analysis in a few weeks, I plan to hold hearings on the proposal to further explore the benefits and effects of the Clean Energy Standard in the Energy Committee.

“The goal of the Clean Energy Standard is ambitious. It is a doubling of clean energy production in this country by 2035. But analysis has shown that the goal is achievable and affordable.  Meeting the Clean Energy Standard will yield substantial benefits to our health and to our economy, to our global competitiveness, and of course to our environment.

“The bill that we are introducing today is simple. It sets a national goal for clean energy. It establishes a transparent framework that lets resources compete to achieve that goal based on how clean they are, and then it gets out of the way and lets the market and American ingenuity determine the best path forward.

“I think this is a very well thought-out proposal, and one that deserves the attention of all colleagues. I hope that they will look at it seriously and I hope that we can attract additional supporters and cosponsors as the weeks proceed here in the Senate.

“Madame President, I yield the floor.”

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Video of the Speech available here - http://bit.ly/xmBisg