On May 8, Senator Tina Smith (D-MN) and Representative Ben Ray Luján (D-NM 03) introduced the Clean Energy Standard Act of 2019. If passed, this legislation would put the United States on a path toward decarbonizing its electricity sector by midcentury. This is a good example of the type of action that will be needed if the United States and the world are to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.
The proposal requires that every company selling retail electricity gradually increase the amount of clean energy provided to its customers. Low-carbon energy technologies such as solar, wind, geothermal, hydro, nuclear, and fossil with carbon capture and sequestration are all allowed to compete. The proposal also incentivizes the development of advanced nuclear reactors, carbon capture and storage, and renewables paired with long-term storage.
This is a smart way to decarbonize the electricity sector and is a true “all of the above” approach. It allows for regional differences within the United States, including varying solar and wind resources, as well as different opportunities for carbon capture and sequestration. The proposal enables states and utilities to choose their own best approach to decarbonization and follows the recent trend of states passing clean energy standards.
With President Trump withdrawing the United States from the Paris Agreement and calling global warming a “hoax,” it is unlikely that the bill will pass into law for at least a few years. However, the proposal could serve as a valuable starting point if Congress and the White House become focused on addressing climate change in the future.
Dr. Matt Bowen is a senior fellow with the Atlantic Council Global Energy Center and a nuclear policy fellow with the Clean Air Task Force. You can follow him on Twitter @mbowen92.