A new bill filed today by Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich of New Mexico, Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, Angus King of Maine, and Tina Smith of Minnesota will put the United States on track for at least 50 percent renewable electricity nationwide by 2035. The Renewable Electricity Standard (RES) Act of 2019, which would annually require all states to steadily increase their use of renewable sources like wind and solar, builds on the wave of ambitious renewable energy policies in the states.
“The scale of America’s clean energy transition must match the enormity of our environmental challenges, and we need federal action now,”” said Rob Sargent, clean energy program director for Environment America. “This bill is an essential step to ensure that renewable energy grows in every part of the country.”
The bill would establish a floor for existing renewable sources in every state and require each state to increase new renewable electricity generation by 1.5 percent in 2020, and then 2 percent annually through 2029 and 2.5 percent each year through 2035. The guidelines are projected to get the U.S. to at least 50 percent renewable electricity by 2035 and put the nation on track to at least 80 percent renewable energy power by mid-century, according to recent modeling.
Ambitious state renewable energy programs have surged nationally over the past five years. In 2015, Hawaii started this trend by establishing a goal to use 100 percent clean energy by 2045. Since then, California, New Mexico, Washington, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia have all made similar commitments. In the past 18 months, many other states, including Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey and New York have improved their renewable electricity standards.
This bill comes at a time when America is well-positioned to ramp up renewable energy. The United States already generates nearly six times more electricity from the sun and wind than it did in 2008, according to a 2018 report by Environment America Research and Policy Center and Frontier Group. Just this May, the United States surpassed two million solar panel installations, according to data from Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). While it took decades to reach one million in 2016, the second million took just three years.
“Climate change poses an existential threat to our environment, public health, way of life, and security – requiring an immediate and aggressive federal response to achieve significant cuts in carbon emissions as well as other pollutants that hurt our most vulnerable communities,” Udall said. “America can no longer afford inaction on climate change— that is why I am proud to introduce legislation that meets this challenge and demonstrates that America is still a leader in renewable energy.”