Muckraker: Grist on Politics

Reps. Jay Inslee (D-Wash.), Bill Delahunt (D-Mass.), Jim McDermott (D-Wash.), and Mike Honda (D-Calif.) introduced legislation [PDF] yesterday to provide security for investments in the renewable-energy sector by guaranteeing rates for renewable-energy generation.

The Renewable Energy Jobs and Security Act would provide guaranteed renewable-energy payments to small and mid-sized clean-energy suppliers (up to 20 megawatts). It would provide security for investments by guaranteeing interconnection with uniform minimum standards, creating a mandatory purchase requirement for long-term contracts, and creating regional cost-sharing mechanisms to allow for rate-recovery and less impact on consumers. The bill would direct the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to set technology-specific prices on energy that utilities would be required to pay renewable-energy suppliers, and would reduce prices every two years over a span of 20 years to bring them down to market rates.

“The cost of inaction on global warming extends well beyond the serious ecologic and human-health impacts that already are taking a toll on our environment,” said Inslee during yesterday’s hearing on the costs of inaction. “There also is an opportunity cost if we fail to help America’s brightest entrepreneurs quench the public demand for clean-energy technologies here in the U.S.”

Inslee noted that hundreds of billions of dollars in capital will be invested in the clean-energy sector over the next several decades, and it would be foolish for the U.S. government not to take steps to make sure that American businesses can get in on that. More than a dozen states already have similar policies in place, or are working on enacting them; this bill would expand that to a federal program. The bill is based on the model of feed-in tariffs used in Germany.

“America faces an infrastructure challenge today not unlike what we had to overcome a century ago to enable farmers to reliably deliver their goods to markets,” said cosponsor McDermott in a statement. “It is not enough to simply say we want to develop new clean and renewable energy resources; we have to facilitate the development and improvements in the transmission infrastructure that can reliably bring these new energy resources to market.”