Lawmakers’ Bill Would Put America on Path to Achieve Net-Zero Emissions in the Electric Sector by Midcentury to Fight Climate Change

WASHINGTON, D.C. [05/08/19]—Today, U.S. Senator Tina Smith (D-Minn.) and U.S. Representative Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), the U.S. House Assistant Speaker, introduced the Clean Energy Standard of Act of 2019, which would establish a federal Clean Energy Standard (CES), to put our nation on course to achieve net-zero emissions from the electric sector by midcentury to fight climate change.

Sen. Smith and Rep. Luján said the science is clear—tackling the climate crisis requires serious and quick action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. One of the immediate actions necessary to reduce emissions produced when we generate electricity, and the measures they introduced in both the House and Senate provide an affordable pathway to significantly reduce emission in this space.

“Minnesota is a leader in finding affordable ways to reduce emissions, and I want the nation to follow our lead,” said Sen. Smith. “The bills Rep. Luján and I have introduced recognize that while states across the country have different energy mixes, we can all work toward the goal of net-zero electricity emissions by utilizing the range of effective technologies. This is about public health, our environment, and making sure that America is leading when it comes to tackling the climate crisis.”
“We cannot wait to take bold actions on climate change. The evidence, the science, and our own experiences demand an immediate response to curb emissions and protect our climate,” said Assistant Speaker Luján. “I am incredibly proud of the legislation from Senator Smith and myself that earned the support of scientists, environmental groups, labor unions, and community leaders and will put the U.S. on an immediate path toward net-zero electricity emissions.”

“I commend Senator Smith and Congressman Luján for introducing Clean Energy Standard legislation,” said former Obama Administration Energy Secretary Ernie Moniz. “To reach deep decarbonization of our energy system, we must move beyond renewable portfolio standards to a technology-neutral CES that provides optionality and flexibility and incentivizes broad-based technology and policy innovation. This approach will maximize opportunities for all Americans to build and participate in these clean energy pathways, and to secure a low-carbon/deeply decarbonized future.”

The Clean Energy Standard Act of 2019 would:
Establish the federal Clean Energy Standard (CES) to put the U.S. on a path to net-zero electricity emissions. Under this plan, every company selling retail electricity would be asked to increase the amount of clean energy provided to its customers, with the recognition that different regions will be starting the clean energy transition at different benchmarks. This bill would establish a CES credit trading market, which would allow retail electricity sellers to cost-effectively achieve clean energy targets without taxes or other federal revenues;
Encourage companies to bring cost-effective, emission-free technologies to market. The bill would further incentivize development and deployment of zero-emission technologies, including long term storage, that can be turned on or off at any time and help balance the electric grid as the transition to clean energy continues; and
Significantly reduce emissions and benefit public health and the environmental. Scientific modeling of this plan shows that it would reduce greenhouse gas emissions from electrical generators by nearly 80 percent by 2035 (compared to 2005 levels) and lead to thousands of fewer deaths every year.

In addition to Sen. Smith and Assistant Speaker Luján, the bill is cosponsored by Sens. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), and Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii).

Sen. Smith first started working on this legislation shortly after joining the Senate and is pleased to partner with Rep. Luján in this effort, and this bill is endorsed by United Steelworkers, Utility Workers of America, the Union of Concerned Scientists, Clean Air Task Force, and Fresh Energy in Minnesota.

You can access a summary of the bill here and text of the bill here.

Last year, Sen. Smith—a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee—laid out a legislative roadmap for the energy section of the strong, bipartisan Farm Bill. Her Agricultural Energy Programs Reauthorization Act was a strong marker for the future of federal ag energy policies, and significantly strengthened energy programs that have seen success in the Farm Bill, including the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP). She also introduced legislation to support the development of energy storage technology. And this year, Sen. Smith led a bipartisan effort with Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel producers by creating additional incentives for utilities to install carbon capture and storage technology. Sen. Smith is also a cosponsor of three other bipartisan pieces of climate legislation that were unveiled earlier this year—the Use-It Act would aid in the development of carbon capture and storage infrastructure and new technology to pull carbon dioxide directly out of the atmosphere. The IMAGINE Act would support innovative materials to protect American infrastructure from hazards such as rising sea levels and changing weather and flooding patterns. The Energy Storage Tax Incentive and Deployment Act serves as a complement to Senator Smith’s own energy storage legislation.  

Luján is a long-time advocate for the deployment of clean energy technologies to help address the climate crisis. In Congress, Luján has led on the American Renewable Energy and Efficiency Act to create a federal standard for renewable energy, as well as pushed Congress to support a national goal of more than 50 percent clean and carbon-free energy by 2030. As a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee and the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, Luján is working to identify and enact policies that can put the U.S. on a pathway to net-zero in the 2050s. Before becoming a member of Congress, Luján served as Chairman of the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission, where he worked with his colleagues to develop a renewable portfolio standard to increase clean energy production in New Mexico.