Dingell, Boucher send query on renewable power

The two chief authors of energy legislation in the House are asking stakeholder groups to comment on a renewable energy provision likely to be among the most controversial components of a bill.

Energy and Commerce Chairman John Dingell (D-Mich.) and Energy and Commerce Energy and Air Quality Subcommittee Chairman Rich Boucher (D-Va.) last month wrote a letter asking a series of questions on a so-called renewable portfolio standard, which would require electric utilities to get a certain percentage of their power from renewable sources such as wind and solar power.

The Senate is scheduled to take up a bill next week that would require utilities to get 15 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2020. Renewable mandates have passed the Senate three times, but failed twice in the House Energy and Commerce Committee under Republican control.

Chances a renewable mandate will pass the House are improved with Democrats in charge, though not assured. Dingell supported but Boucher opposed past federal renewable standards.

There are various opinions on how to craft a portfolio bill to alleviate concerns from areas like the Southeast that may not have sufficient renewable sources of power to meet the 15 percent mandate.

Some utilities that rely on nuclear power are pushing a “clean energy” amendment that would give nuclear the same credit as wind or solar power. Nuclear generation does not release greenhouse gases. Others are backing energy efficiency programs as “renewable.”

The Dingell-Boucher letter was sent to 42 stakeholder groups, including utility trade associations and environmental organizations such as the Sierra Club. The two lawmakers sent a similar letter asking groups for their thoughts on global warming legislation.

Questions the renewable-energy letter poses run more than three pages, and include:

If Congress were to adopt an economy-wide policy mandating reductions in emissions of greenhouse gases, including the electricity industry, would such a portfolio standard remain necessary or advisable?

What is the principle that should determine inclusion or exclusion of any energy source from an adopted portfolio standard?

Should there be any distinction between existing and new sources of generation eligible for inclusion in the portfolio?