The bill is virtually identical to the standard approved by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee last year. It allows for 4% to be met through energy efficiency improvements and contains interim targets, starting at 3% in 2012.
Utilities can also option to meet the requirement by making alternative compliance payments of $0.021/kWh, with the money used to either support the development of renewable resources or to offset increases in customer's bills.
Jeff Bingaman, a New Mexico Democrat who is the chair of the energy committee and lead sponsor of the new bill, said: "I think that the votes are present in the Senate to pass a renewable electricity standard. I think that they are present in the House. I think that we need to get on with figuring out what we can pass and move forward."
Industry players and environmental groups criticized the target as too weak to spur significant clean energy development when it originally came out of committee. But, stymied by failed attempts to pass energy and climate legislation in the Senate since then, many are ready to take what they can get.
Marchant Wentworth, deputy legislative director for the Union Of Concerned Scientists said: "While the renewable electricity standard proposed today is not perfect, the United States absolutely cannot afford to wait any longer to create a national clean energy policy."
Denise Bode, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association, says the RES is the "single most important thing" Congress can do to ensure the US wind industry doesn't lose investment to China. She added: "This bill sends a signal to manufacturers that the time is right to invest in and grow their operations here in America."
Whether the legislation can pass the Senate this year or not remains to be seen. Bingman told reporters Tuesday he has not yet approached Majority Leader Harry Reid about securing floor time for the proposal, saying he wants to secure the necessary votes first.