America to run on 25 percent clean energy, according to new legislation

Lakwatsero, Flickr

Good news for clean energy fans—two different bills were introduced in the Senate this week that would require 25 percent of American electricity to come from wind, solar and other renewable sources by 2025.

This legislation, introduced by Sens. Tom Udall (D-NM) and Mark Udall (D-CO), and Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA), would establish a national Renewable Energy Standard (RES). If passed, the national RES would lead America away from conventional fossil fuels and towards the clean energy that the country needs. 

Currently 29 states and the District of Columbia have their own standards and have been wildly successful in reducing pollution and the amount of oil, gas and coal used by utilities and power plants.

Map: Department of Energy

The idea of an RES has been supported by a wide range of interests, inside and outside the environmental community, but to see two different bills introduced in the same week shows just how mainstream the issue has become and how important it is to see a concerted effort to transition to renewable energy.

A move towards renewable energy, such as wind and solar, would create hundreds of thousands of jobs—over 300,000 by some estimates. These jobs would range from manufacturing and installation to research and development brought on by incentives to innovate with increased reliance on energy efficiency and renewable energy.

President Obama’s climate action plan has set a target of doubling new renewable energy to be sited and developed on federal lands.The energy generated would be enough power to run 3 million American homes. This would be significant without an RES, but with one, the desire for more renewable energy would be critical.

The Wilderness Society is working with various stakeholders, including the Obama administration, to make sure those renewable energy projects occur the right places.

Included in Sen. Markey’s version is another way to improve American energy: focusing renewable energy development in former industrial zones. These areas, called "brownfields," are ideal for renewable energy projects. Prioritizing contaminated lands like brownfields for renewable energy development is important because these sites generally have very little ecological or conservation value.

Lake Erie breezes makes Steel Winds the largest wind powered brownfield redevelopment in the country. Photo: Liese Dart

Developing brownfields for clean energy production would help to keep undisturbed public land from being used for power generation and development. It’s a win-win situation for conservation and clean energy advocates.

The promise of an RES would accelerate the nation’s move towards clean and renewable energy and grow our economy greatly. Laws like the ones put forth by Sens. Udall and Markey are a great way to move the clean energy conversation forward. Hopefully, other Senators and Representatives take notice of the promise it holds.