WASHINGTON, DC — The Democratically controlled Senate has released its energy bill which includes significant support for renewable energy as well as a provision supporting the 13 SEER standard for central air conditioners and heat pumps.

Introduced by Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) and Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, the bill leaves out oil drilling in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), which was a key measure of the House energy bill and President Bush’s national energy policy. As an alternative, it offers incentives for the construction of an Alaskan natural gas pipeline.

It also repeals the Public Utility Holding Company Act (PUHCA), which is the only federal legislation limiting the ability of utility holding companies to cross-subsidize affiliate operations.

The proposed legislation calls for the establishment of an energy research and development program to reduce energy use by 1.9% each year through 2020 and reduce total consumption by 8 quads by 2020. It enhances renewable energy research and development, authorizing funding of $500 million in 2003 to $733 million in 2006 for wind power, solar, biomass, geothermal, and other renewable sources.

The bill requires retail suppliers of electricity to increase their use of renewable energy technologies to specific percentages. These percentages, which must be in addition to renewable generation already offered, would increase by 2.5% in 2005 up to 10% in 2020. It also calls for the federal government to use more renewable energy — 7.5% of the total electricity purchased must be from a renewable source by 2010.

It gives more power to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to establish and enforce standards to ensure reliability of the nation’s electric transmission system.

In addition to endorsing the 13 SEER standard, the bill requires rulemaking to develop standards for ceiling fans, commercial refrigerators and freezers, and unit heaters. It establishes a program of grants for states for the renovation or construction of more energy-efficient elementary and secondary schools. The bill is expected to come up for debate in late January.

Publication date: 12/17/2001