Renewable Energy Feed-In Tariff Legislation Introduced in U.S. Congress

Turbines in California

photo by Patrick Boury

While the Senate dawdles with one set of renewable energy incentives, four members of the House of Representatives, led by Jay Inslee (D-Washington), have introduced a new piece of legislation that everyone concerned about alternative energy in the United States really needs to watch.
Feed-In Tariff Legislation Introduced into House
The Renewable Energy Jobs and Security Act would create a feed-in tariff system of payments for small to mid-sized renewable energy suppliers (sites up to 20MW in size) similar to the one which has had such success, and has been recently expanded, in Germany.

Under a feed-in tariff system renewable electricty producers are paid a fixed, above market-rate, tariff for the electricity that is fed into the grid. The cost of this is then spread across all consumers of electricty. In Germany the estimated additional cost to the average family of three is €2 per month.

Rep. Jay Inslee

Inslee: "The feed-in tariff enacted in Germany in 2003 has helped the European nation achieve 55 percent of the world's installed solar capacity, provide 14 percent of its electricity supply from renewable sources and create at least 140,000 jobs.  Similar policies also have been adopted by France, Spain and over 40 other countries, provinces and states."

Inslee's bill has three main components: guaranteed interconnection to the grid, long-term fixed rate contracts with electric utilities, and a rate-recovery program through a regional cost-sharing commission to minimize the impact on consumers. The bill would set technology-specific rates that utilities would pay renewable energy suppliers, that would incrementally decrease every two years for the 20 year lifespan of the tariff.

Though Inslee does not mention it, given the reports that we've seen recently about renewable energy reaching parity with fossil fuels, some of these rates should probably be set to depreciate more quickly than others, but overall the plan is sound.

New Direction in US Renewable Energy Promotion?
It may not seem it at first, and provided there are no demons lurking in the end pages of this bill which limit its effectiveness, this bill could dramatically change the way in which renewable energy is promoted in the United States.

Co-sponsoring the bill with Inslee are Bill Delahunt (D-Mass.), Jim McDermott (D-Wash.; no relation to post author), and Mike Honda (D-Cali.). A companion bill has not yet been introduced in the Senate.

:: Representative Jay Inslee
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