Murkowski Wins Amendments to RES Proposal

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, today voiced opposition to a one-size-fits-all national renewable mandate that excludes existing emissions-free energy technology, such as hydro and nuclear power.
The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee today marked up a Renewable Electricity Standard (RES) that would require utilities to generate 15 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2021. Murkowski, the committee’s top Republican, said she opposes the plan because it excludes existing carbon emissions-free technologies. The proposal’s narrow definition of renewable energy allows only new nuclear and limited hydro to be taken out of the national baseline.
“Nuclear energy simply must be an increased part of our energy mix if we’re serious about addressing climate change,” Murkowski said.
While the majority are determined to force the country to invest in a select few renewable resources through top-down mandates, Murkowski favors letting the free market determine which technologies can best deliver clean, affordable power.
“The government should not mandate winners and losers,” Murkowski said. “We should instead encourage private industry and the free market to determine the best, most economical, emissions-free energy solutions.”
If an RES is designed to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, then it makes no sense to leave out nuclear energy that is already proven to provide baseload, reliable, affordable power generation without the pollution that scientists believe contribute to global climate change, Murkowski said.
Murkowski said she also wants to see the arbitrary cap on energy efficiency measures removed from the RES. Under the existing proposal, up to a quarter of the 15 percent mandate could be met through increased efficiency.

“Efficiency is the quickest, easiest and cheapest way to improve how we use energy,” Murkowski said. “It’s counterproductive to discourage one of the simplest solutions we have to address U.S. emissions.”
Murkowski also restated her concern that a national mandate would disproportionally harm certain regions of the country – particularly the Southeast – that lack abundant renewable resources as defined in the current RES proposal.
“We need to employ solutions that are actually achievable and within our reach before we force states to invest billions of taxpayers’ dollars in technologies that currently make up a mere fraction of our energy supply,” Murkowski said. “Wind and solar have a role, but we need to be honest about what they are really capable of.”
Murkowski was successful Thursday in improving the majority’s original proposal with three amendments:    
  • Provide the Secretary of Energy authority to designate future breakthrough technologies as renewable resources for the purpose of an RES.
  • Authorize state public utility commissions and electric utilities to apply for a variance, for one or more years, on the basis of transmission constraints that prevent the delivery of renewable energy.
  • Removed new nuclear energy and nuclear uprates from the baseline amount of electricity that must be offset.  
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