New US energy bill focuses on renewables

The Senate introduced a bill in early May outlining a plan to reduce energy emissions to 20% below 2005 levels by 2035 by shifting toward more renewable sources.

Energy committee Chair Senator Jeff Bingaman (D- NM), authored the bill in cooperation with the Energy Information Administration (EIA).

The majority of the emission reductions will result from a significant shift away from coal combustion, which has long been the main source of domestic electricity in the US. However, following the discovery of vast deposits of natural gas in the Marcellus Shale throughout the Northeast, many energy utilities have already begun maneuvering away from coal, which burns much dirtier than even natural gas.

The bill plans to reduce coal-fired electricity generation 54% to help meet President Barack Obama’s goal of deriving 80% of US energy from renewable sources by 2035.

Beginning in 2015, the nation’s largest electric providers would be required to begin generating more of its energy from solar, wind, and nuclear sources.

Since current solar and wind technology does not have the storage capacity to provide constant electricity, the bill expects natural gas operations to meet demand during the first years of implementation. By 2030, long term nuclear projects will replace the nearly 100 gigawatts of electricity stemming from coal-fired power plants that will be retired in that time.

A follow-up hearing on the Clean Energy Standard bill is scheduled for May 17, 2012.