New coalition hopes to jump-start Obama’s ‘clean energy standard’

The new group is organized around a half-dozen principles, such as ensuring that any standard would boost clean energy beyond forecasts of what will come online under existing policies.

“We applaud the efforts that have been made to advance a Clean Energy Standard and urge that any final policy establish both a strong, long-term goal and aggressive near-term targets to accelerate deployment of clean, renewable energy beyond business as usual, while recognizing the role of existing clean and renewable energy technologies,” the group’s principles state.

Other principles include ensuring that a clean standard attracts investments in U.S. manufacturing, does not hinder states’ ability to pursue policies that are stronger than the national standard, and results in deployment of a “diverse spectrum of clean and renewable energy technologies to protect consumers from both price and resource variability.”

The White House wants to create a national standard under which utilities together would supply 80 percent of their power from low-emissions sources — including renewables and nuclear power — by 2035.

Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) is working with the White House but has yet to introduce legislation.

New mandates on power companies face hurdles in the Senate and even bigger barriers in the GOP-controlled House.

But the White House is emphasizing that the standard would be a flexible program that allows utilities to make use of an array of technologies to meet the requirements.

In addition to counting renewables and nuclear power toward the standard, natural gas and electricity from coal plants that trap and store carbon emissions (a technology not yet commercialized) would receive partial credit, and the plan should leave the door open to credit energy sources that emerge in the future, according to the White House.

“By ensuring flexibility through a broad definition of clean energy and by allowing trading among utilities, the program is designed to meet the overall target cost-effectively. The administration’s proposal emphasizes the importance of protecting consumers and accounting for regional differences,” the White House argued in a report earlier this year.