Congresswoman Diana DeGette

Representing the First District of Colorado
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DeGette calls for creation of a federal clean-energy standard to combat climate crisis

Oct 30, 2019
Press Release
The Colorado Democrat unveils new plan to cut carbon emissions from U.S. electric-utilities in half by 2030, net-zero by 2050

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO) released today a detailed summary of legislation she plans to introduce in the coming weeks to create the nation’s first federal clean-energy standard designed to cut carbon emissions from the country’s electricity-producing utilities in half by 2030 and to net-zero by 2050.

The legislation would, among other things, create a system that would award each U.S. power plant with one “clean energy credit” for every megawatt-hour of electricity it produces without emitting carbon into the atmosphere. It would also award credits for the removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, such as by capturing and permanently storing it in the earth.

While the bill seeks to increase companies’ use of existing sources of carbon-free energy – such as wind, solar, nuclear and hydro-electric dams – it also sets a new standard to determine whether energy produced by any other means is considered “clean,” allowing companies to pursue a wide array of new technologies that could one day be used to produce the reliable and affordable electricity Americans have come to expect, while emitting little to no carbon in the process.

“The science is clear,” DeGette said. “If we are going to avoid the worst effects of our climate crisis, the U.S. has to take drastic steps now to cut our carbon emissions. The problem is that all of the technology we need to do that does not yet exist. By creating a national clean-energy standard that all U.S. power companies will have to adhere to, we will be able to spur the innovation and deployment of the new technologies we’ll need to solve this crisis.”

Under the system that would be established under DeGette’s bill, starting in 2022, every U.S. power company would be required to submit an increasing number of clean-energy credits to the Department of Energy each year. Any company that fails to earn its required number of credits for a given year would have to either negotiate the purchase of excess credits from another power company or buy them directly from the Department of Energy at a pre-established price. 

According to a United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, the U.S. needs to cut its net-carbon emissions in half by 2030 and to net zero by 2050 for the world to avoid the worst effects of climate change.

One of the main sources of carbon emissions in the U.S. is, and has been, electricity-producing utilities that are responsible for producing approximately 25% of the nation’s overall carbon emissions.

While the total amount of carbon dioxide emitted from U.S. energy-producing facilities has decreased in recent years – as the industry shifts from coal to natural gas, and increases its use of renewable energy – experts agree that much more still needs to be done, and at a faster pace, to put the country on track to meet its 2030 and 2050 goals.

By mandating that U.S. energy producers take steps now to reduce their carbon emissions or face substantial penalties, DeGette’s legislation seeks to spur the innovation of new technologies that will be needed to eliminate carbon emissions from the nation’s power sector.  

By allowing companies to sell any excess credits they earn in a particular year to other companies, DeGette’s legislation is designed to reward utilities that take more immediate steps to drastically cut their carbon emissions. At the same time, however, by giving companies the option to buy credits directly from the Department of Energy at pre-designated price, the bill creates a cap on the price of the credits to prevent any future disruptions in the market that could occur if the price were to suddenly spike.

Unlike previous proposals that have been introduced to create a similar nationwide standard, DeGette’s legislation mandates that any revenues collected by the Department of Energy through the sale of any clean-energy credits must be placed in a trust fund and used solely for the purpose of funding the most cost-effective projects aimed at reducing the nation’s carbon emissions – such as deploying more electric vehicles and improving the energy efficiency of buildings.

A detailed summary of DeGette’s legislation is available here.

Video of DeGette discussing the bill during today’s Energy Subcommittee hearing is available here.