Congress moved one step closer to adopting a federal renewable electricity standard ("RES") with the narrow passage of the American Clean Energy and Security Act by the House. Twenty-nine states already have adopted some form of renewable energy portfolio standard, but a federal RES is widely thought to be important for creating a national renewable energy and energy efficiency market. The House RES establishes a national compliance obligation overseen by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“FERC”) under which large retail electricity suppliers (“Suppliers”) are required to invest in renewable energy and energy efficiency. For each compliance year, a Supplier must calculate its total volume of electricity sales during that year and then submit to FERC a sufficient number of federal renewable electricity credits (“Federal RECs”) and demonstrated annual electricity savings to meet the RES goal for that compliance year. Up to 25 percent (or 40 percent, upon a state’s request) of a Supplier’s RES obligation may be met through electricity savings rather than Federal RECs. The trade-off, however, is that the incentive to develop and deploy new renewable energy capacity may be diluted by allowing efficiency measures to count toward the RES goal.
The RES passed by the House would not preempt state programs with stricter compliance targets, meaning that the federal program would preserve to some extent the patchwork of state standards. If Congress does pass a federal RES, leveraging the resulting business opportunities will thus require an intimate understanding of how both federal and state programs work and, perhaps more importantly, how they interact.
For more details on the RES, please take a look at our recent client alert.