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Lawmakers file bill that would help connect clean energy to the power grid

Nov 1, 2007 - Media Release - www.house.gov

Two members of the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, U.S. Reps. Jay Inslee (D-Wash.) and Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), today introduced legislation in the House that would make renewable electricity produced in rural areas available to urban energy users.

Specifically, their Rural Clean Energy Superhighways Act would improve electricity transmission from rural areas with significant renewable energy potential, while spreading the cost of construction, maintenance and operation of infrastructure throughout a region, to all beneficiaries. Promising sources of renewable energy often are located in remote areas – like oceans, plains and volcanoes – where transmission lines currently are non-existent or inadequate to deliver new electricity generation to market.

“Every day, I hear about new advances in technology that will make it possible to harness energy from the waves off Neah Bay, wind near Walla Walla and other renewable sources in Washington state,” said Inslee, who recently co-authored a book on the clean-energy revolution called “Apollo’s Fire: Igniting America’s Clean Energy Economy.” “The next trick will be finding a way to get power produced in these rural areas to homes and businesses in Seattle, Shoreline, Silverdale and Spokane.”

“With oil reaching a record $96 a barrel today, Congress needs to do everything in its power to make renewable energy available to everyone,” added Blumenauer. “The introduction of this bill starts an important conversation about upgrading our nation’s transmission infrastructure to promote the production and use of renewable energy. This is an important step towards a cleaner, greener energy future.”

The Pacific Northwest and other regions of the United States have enormous potential to generate electricity using renewable resources, such as wave, wind, solar, geothermal and biomass. Some estimate there could be as much as 600,000 megawatts of economically usable renewable resources – enough to meet roughly half of U.S. energy demand by the year 2025.

Currently, the lack of sufficient electric transmission capacity in remote, renewable energy rich areas represents a major barrier to developing these resources and meeting standards for clean energy in the electricity mix. Twenty-five states currently have a so-called renewable electricity standard (RES), including Washington with the passage of Initiative 937 last year, and Oregon, with enactment of the Oregon Renewable Energy Act in June.

In August, the U.S. House passed in its energy-independence package a federal RES for at least 15 percent renewable electricity and efficiency improvements before 2020. Inslee and Blumenauer supported RES initiatives in their respective states, and both championed the RES amendment to the House energy bill.

The Inslee-Blumenauer legislation is modeled, in part, on a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) ruling issued last April in response to a petition by California Independent System Operator Corporation (CAISO). CAISO originally went to FERC for approval of a financing mechanism to cover the cost of constructing transmission between remotely located wind projects and the rest of their grid. In September, Senate Majority Leader Reid (D-Nev.) introduced a similar bill, S. 2076, the Clean Renewable Energy and Economic Development Act.