Whistling in the Wind over National RPS

Sen. Jeff Bingaman, Chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee is preparing to re-introduce a national renewable portfolio standard bill on a standalone basis. It is reportedly similar to his 2009 proposal. Previously, the Democrat leadership had tied RPS to broader energy legislation, but failure of Waxman-Markey left that goal on the committee room floor.

Meanwhile, the wind lobby has been crying ‘the sky is falling’ over prospects for a slow wind market growth in 2011 and facing the reality that many states are reaching their RPS targets with little enthusiasm for raising them leaving the wind industry to compete the old fashioned way.

Whether this standalone bill can attract the 60 votes needed to pass in this hot election season says more about the need for both Democrats and Republicans to have some even modest energy achievement they can campaign on back home.

The expected Bingaman bill will start small at 3% by 2012 and ramp up to 15% by 2021—hardly a heavy lift, but any national RPS requirement does change the market dynamics forcing areas like the Southeast where wind potential is limited except offshore to import more renewable resources.  This might be good for Iowa and even Nebraska’s nascent wind resources if the transmission is available to get it to market.

The bill presumably will set a national floor on RPS so it does not undermine the state efforts in those states that have the more typical 20% target.

So what?

This standalone bill appears to have something for everyone—and has the added advantage of no baggage from other aspirations like cap and trade so in an election year when the incumbents need something to brag about this might work.  Is this a major leap forward for renewable energy?  No.  Does it do any harm?  No.