June 26, 2019

Study: Renewable Electricity Standard Bill is Affordable and Would Slash Power Sector Carbon by Nearly Half

WASHINGTON (June 26, 2019)—The legislation Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M) introduced today would more than double the U.S. supply of renewable energy from 18 percent of electricity generation in 2018 to at least 50 percent by 2035, cut power sector carbon dioxide emissions by 46 percent, and save consumers money on their energy bills, according to a Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) analysis.  

“This proposal is eminently achievable and it’s long past time to scale up these technologies in a bigger and more uniform way,” said Ken Kimmell, UCS president. “The legislation would ensure that every state is doing its fair share to address the climate crisis. The good news is that not only would this legislation set the nation on a course for 100 percent clean electricity by 2050, it’s affordable for consumers. Diversifying the nation’s electricity mix with renewable energy would reduce the economic and climate risks of an overreliance on natural gas. It also would substantially reduce air pollutants that disproportionately affect low-income communities, communities of color and down-wind states.”

The legislation is unique in that it levels the playing field for all states and incentivizes states to build more renewable energy in their own state, instead of outsourcing their way to compliance by simply buying renewable energy credits from existing projects. Utilities in every state are required to grow at or above the federal floor-setting standard by 1.5 to 2.5 percent per year, so no state is at a disadvantage because of where it started from. The bill also incentivizes renewable energy development in environmental justice and coal communities. 

“We needed to do this yesterday,” said Kimmell. “People around the country are dealing with dangerously high temperatures, rising seas, deadly wildfires, torrential rainfalls and devastating hurricanes. These climate-related impacts will only get worse if carbon emissions continue unabated, and one of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to cut carbon pollution is with renewable energy.”

According the UCS analysis, the bill would:

  • Cut the electricity sector’s global warming emissions 46 percent by 2035.
  • Yield more than $34 billion (0.6 percent) in cumulative net energy bill savings for consumers from 2020 to 2035, as slightly higher electricity bills are more than offset by lower natural gas bills.
  • A typical household would pay $18 in higher annual electricity bills in 2030, and $51 more in 2035. For the nearly 50 percent of U.S. homes that heat with natural gas, typical annual natural gas bills would be nearly $43 lower in 2030, and $94 lower in 2035. Industrial and commercial customers would also see lower natural gas bills.
  • Result in more than twice as much renewable generation, 38 percent less natural gas and 97 percent less coal in 2035.
  • Spur $374 billion in cumulative new capital investments, primarily in solar, wind and other renewable projects; $5.6 billion in property tax payments to local governments; and $1.4 billion in wind power land lease payments to rural landowners from 2020 to 2035.

For more information on UCS’ analysis of the bill, see a blog post by Steve Clemmer, the director of energy research and analysis at UCS.

For more information comparing the Udall RES bill with the Clean Energy Standard Act, introduced by Sen. Tina Smith (D-Minn.), see a blog post by Rob Cowin, the director of government affairs for the Climate and Energy Program at UCS.

The Union of Concerned Scientists puts rigorous, independent science to work to solve our planet's most pressing problems. Joining with people across the country, we combine technical analysis and effective advocacy to create innovative, practical solutions for a healthy, safe, and sustainable future.