WASHINGTON, DC - Energy and Commerce Committee Vice-Chairman Diana DeGette (D-CO) presided over today's opening of the Committee's mark-up of the House Energy Bill. In addition, Chief Deputy Whip DeGette offered and withdrew an amendment for the creation of a Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS), initiating and leading a discussion among Committee Members about the value and potential energy efficiency of creating a standard that requires electric utilities to generate a percentage of their power from renewable sources.
Rep. DeGette made the following opening remarks as prepared for delivery:
"Mr. Chairman, I have an amendment at the desk.
"I want to be clear from the outset that I intend to offer and withdraw this amendment today. From the way this energy legislation has been drafted, my amendment, which I believe has strong support from many of my colleagues, does not appear to be germane.
"But given that this committee and this Congress intend to pass comprehensive energy legislation this year, we would be remiss not to at least begin debate on the amendment I am putting forth.
"My amendment would create a renewable portfolio standard, also known as a renewable energy standard.
"Were this amendment to become law, it would commit America to taking a critical step towards ending our dependence on fossil fuels.
"It requires our nation's electric utilities to produce 20% of our power from clean, renewable resources such as wind, biomass, solar, and geothermal.
"My amendment also sets up a flexible, market-based trading system that allows utilities to choose whether to develop renewable generation themselves or purchase credits from firms that have lower costs.
"The concept of an RPS is not new, but recently it has been gaining support like never before. This committee has considered it in previous energy debates, and the Senate has passed a version of it three times.
"The real action, however, on renewable electricity has been at the state and local level. Twenty-three states, including my home state of Colorado, plus the District of Columbia, have passed versions of the RPS.
"In every single one of these instances, opponents have claimed that such a transition to renewable power couldn't be done. Or that the timeline wasn't reasonable. Or there weren't sufficient renewables. Or that it would cost too much money.
"Mr. Chairman, I would like to report that by any measure, these state programs have been wildly successful and indeed cost effective.
"In Colorado, voters passed an initiative requiring a 10% RPS. Implementation of this program was so successful, our forward-looking state legislature and governor doubled the requirement to 20% just a few months ago.
"Indeed the effort in my state, and in states across the country, is exceeding all expectations.
"This success at the local level has built momentum for a national consensus on clean electricity generation.
"We have finally moved past the debate about whether climate change is happening and have begun a national conversation on what to do about it.
"We know that electricity production is responsible for a large portion of the toxic greenhouse gases we emit. We have the technology and the fuels to replace much of this carbon-based pollution.
"All we need now is the political will to move ahead.
"There are added benefits besides a reduction in emissions. A study by the Union of Concerned Scientists has concluded that in Colorado alone, my amendment would:
Save consumers over 1.2 billion dollars in lower electricity and natural gas bills
Generate 1.7 billion dollars in new capital investment
Provide 79 million dollars in additional income to ranchers and farmers, and
Create more than 5,800 new high-paying jobs.
"Those are just the effects in my state. Nationwide the effects of this amendment are only amplified.
"Some of the opponents of this amendment will claim that certain regions of the nation simply don't have renewable energy. That simply is not the case.
"My amendment is source neutral. Utilities could also choose to develop whatever source of renewable energy best fits the region.
"For example, in the West, we have an enormous amount of wind and solar potential. The Southeastern United States enjoys tremendous biomass, landfill gas, and other renewable energy resources.
"The renewable portfolio goes a step further by introducing a market-based trading scheme that has worked so well under the Clean Air Act. This would allow utilities to buy and sell credits rather than developing renewables directly, which will ensure that the renewable power is promoted at the absolute lowest costs.
"Furthermore, benefits of this amendment outweigh its relatively minor costs because consumers all over the nation will benefit from lower natural gas bills. Several recent studies have shown that, under this amendment, renewables will displace natural gas in the generation of electricity which will free up natural gas to heat our homes, lowering the cost.
"So there are benefits under this amendment to all regions of the country, and overall consumers will greatly benefit. Add to that the benefits of reduced greenhouse gas emissions, job creation, and a home-grown source of clean power, I think this amendment is a win-win-win.
"While I am forced to withdraw this important amendment today on a technicality, I can't think of a more relevant issue to the energy debate than the development of clean, renewable electricity.
"I look forward to working with my colleagues to finally enact an RPS.
"Thank you, Mr. Chairman."