On March 21, 2011, the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources (ENR Committee) issued a white paper (PDF) laying out some of the key questions and potential design elements of a Clean Energy Standard (CES).  The white paper notes that President Obama in his January 2011  State of the Union address proposed a CES that would require that 80 percent of the nation’s electricity come from clean energy technologies by 2035.  The white paper provides that the ENR Committee now faces a threshold question of what the general policy goals for the electric sector are and whether a CES would most effectively achieve them.  The white paper then queries whether the goal should be to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, lower electricity costs, spur utilization of particular assets, diversify supply, or some combination thereof?  The white paper further asks whether depending on the goals, is a CES the right policy at this time, and, if so, is 80 percent by 2035 the right target, or, if not, should alternatives to reach similar goals be considered?  The white paper then presents six major questions (and 36 clarifying questions):

  1. What should be the threshold for inclusion of utilities and states in the new program?
  2. What resources should qualify as “clean energy”?
  3. How should the crediting system and timetables be designed?
  4. How will a CES affect the deployment of specific technologies?
  5. How should Alternative Compliance Payments, regional costs, and consumer protections be addressed?
  6. How would the CES interact with other policies?

Accompanying its posting of the white paper the ENR Committee posted public response forms for each of these six main questions and an executive summary form, as well as an form to raise additional topics related to the design of a mandatory market based CES program.  Written responses to the white paper must be submitted using the individual response forms and executive summary form to be considered.  Submittals must be emailed to Clean_Energy_Standard@energy.senate.gov no later than 5 p.m. (EST) on April 11, 2011.