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By a vote of 15 to 8, the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources has approved the American Clean Energy Leadership Act, which includes a 15% by 2021 federal renewable electricity standard (RES).

Notably, the 15% provision is less aggressive than the 20% RES that the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) supported and much less substantial than the 25% by 2025 RES touted by President Obama.

The Senate bill applies to utilities that generate more than 4 million MWh annually, but would exclude most co-ops. A provision of the Senate bill allows 4% of the requirement to be met through energy-efficiency measures.

Last month, as part of the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 (H.R.2454), the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce proposed a 15% by 2020 renewable energy requirement, but that bill also contains several loopholes that could water down the 15% requirement.

Moreover, the Senate bill contains a transmission provision that gives the federal government the authority to override state objections to expanding transmission lines and establishes an independent agency to spearhead government clean energy investments.

"We look forward to working with Sen. Bingaman and other supporters to strengthen the RES so that it will get new jobs created," Denise Bode, CEO of AWEA, said in a statement.

"A meaningful national standard is urgently needed to encourage investment in renewable energy, create new jobs for Americans, diversify and secure our nation's energy supply and avoid carbon emissions," she added. "We appreciate [Bingaman's] work and the commitment of other senators on the committee who voted against amendments designed to weaken the standard."

The Senate bill faces an uncertain future. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D.-Nev., intends to combine the energy bill with a climate-change bill, which policy- watchers say will almost certainly draw opposition from coal- and manufacturing-heavy states. For its part, the House may vote on H.R.2454 as soon as this month.

Assuming the House bill passes, both the Senate's and House's energy bills would go into a conference committee to reconcile the two bills. However, that step may take some time, as "the Senate is not going to consider anything until September, at the earliest," according to Aaron Severn, AWEA's energy legislative manager.


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