Cantwell Secures Key Provisions in Breakthrough Clean Energy Bill

Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Moves Landmark Legislation to Floor for Full Vote

WASHINGTON, DC – After months of deliberation, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee voted to approve a landmark comprehensive energy package that includes numerous key provisions secured by U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA). Cantwell, Chair of the Subcommittee on Energy, played a key role in developing the American Clean Energy Leadership Act of 2009 (ACELA), which establishes a national renewable electricity generation requirement, creates robust new clean energy financing opportunities, facilitates the growth of more diverse and distributed sources of energy, and doubles our national investment in energy research and technology. The bill now moves to the Senate floor for further debate and a vote.

"This bill will help accelerate our nation’s urgently needed transition to a clean energy economy and will create hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of new green jobs," said Cantwell. "I still have some concerns about some aspects of this package. I will seek a much stronger renewable electricity standard and fight to remove a provision allowing drilling just 10 miles off some of nation’s most pristine and tourist-friendly beaches. I will continue working to make this bill stronger to not only increase opportunities for the development of clean energy technologies, but to protect our nation's environmental landscape."

As Chair of the Subcommittee on Energy, Cantwell held numerous hearings on numerous issues surrounding the bill and secured the following provisions:

Renewable Energy Loan Fund. Cantwell authored a new federal loan program that will greatly reduce financing costs that utilities or developers might incur in complying with the new Renewable Electricity Standard (RES), thus minimizing the impact on consumer electricity rates. The amendment authorizes the Energy Department to provide very low interest loans amortized over 30 years, making most RES investments significantly more cost-effective at little or no cost to taxpayers. With capital markets still unwilling to lend, this low-interest loan program will provide an essential lifeline allowing clean energy projects to get up and running.

Boosting Distributed Generation. Cantwell augmented the new federal transmission siting title to ensure that each new proposal includes a thorough analysis of whether investments in distributed generation, demand response, and smart grid improvements might return on investment for electricity ratepayers than new high voltage transmission lines.

National Efficiency and Peak Demand Reduction Goal. Cantwell created a new national efficiency and peak demand efficiency goal to reduce the gap between periods of lowest and highest electricity demand by 1.5 percent per year through 2030. Smoothing out electricity demand and reducing on-peak electricity use is critical to lowering overall electricity costs and making the electricity grid more efficient and reliable. According to the Government Accountability Office, one hundred hours of annual peak demand can account for 10 to 20 percent of total annual electricity expenditures. Controlling peak demand is critical to the development of the Smart Grid, a top priority for Cantwell, because the technologies and techniques used to manage and reduce peak demand are the same as those needed to bring more diverse power sources online. By reducing overall electricity demand, deploying distributed generation, smart meters, energy storage, and time-based pricing, and using smart grid technologies, the U.S. electricity grid will suffer fewer outages, and ratepayers will save billions.

Protecting Energy Consumers. Cantwell successfully amended ACELA to provide the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) the authority it needs to police the electricity and natural gas markets, enforce just and reasonable rates, and prevent market manipulation. Currently, FERC does not have "cease and desist" authority over electricity markets and cannot prevent an organization that is suspected of manipulating the market from continuing their manipulative activity.

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