Clean Energy Standards

A clean energy standard (CES) is one policy option for spurring the deployment of clean energy technology and reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the electric power sector. Thirty-one states and the District of Columbia have enacted energy standards for the power sector. Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) proposed a federal CES with the introduction of the Clean Energy Standard Act of 2012 on March 1, 2012, building on the state programs, President Obama's call for a federal clean energy standard, and earlier proposals from both sides of the aisle.

A CES is a type of electricity portfolio standard. An electricity portfolio standard requires electric utilities to supply specified percentages of their electricity sales from qualified energy sources (with credit sometimes given for electricity savings from energy efficiency) while typically allowing utilities to demonstrate compliance via tradable credits. Most state electricity portfolio standards and several congressional proposals have promoted renewable electricity generation through policies known as renewable portfolio standards (RPSs) or renewable electricity standards (RESs). Some states (e.g. Ohio) have instituted electricity portfolio standards that set requirements for "clean" or "alternative" energy, including not only renewables, but certain non-renewable electricity generation technologies, such as new nuclear power and coal with carbon capture and storage (CCS).

Several of the climate and energy legislative proposals in the 111th Congress (2009 – 2010) included national electricity portfolio standards—both RESs and CESs – such as the Bingaman-Murkowski energy bill, American Clean Energy and Leadership Act (ACELA), and Sen. Lindsey Graham's (R-SC) Clean Energy Standard Act. The concept of a federal CES attracted renewed attention during the 112th Congress (2011 – 2012) when President Obama proposed the adoption of a CES in his January 2011 State of the Union address. President Obama's proposal would double the share of electricity generated from clean energy sources to 80 percent by 2035. Of particular note, the Obama proposal would provide partial credit to efficient natural gas electricity generation under a CES, which the CES proposals in the 111th Congress would not do.

In the Senate, Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chair Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) and Ranking Member Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) undertook a thorough study of the policy components of a CES in spring of 2011, and solicited stakeholder input on policy design and implications. Bingaman drew on this study in writing his CES proposal, which was released in March 2012. Sen. Bingaman held one hearing related to the proposal in May 2012. The bill was not reported out of committee. In the House, the leadership of the Republican Party did not expressed interest in a CES, though some Democrats showed interest. The discussion of a CES is likely to evolve considerably in coming Congresses.

C2ES Resources

External Resources