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EGEB: Bill for 50% US renewables by 2035, renewables surpass coal in US, European solar rebound

In today’s EGEB:

  • A newly introduced bill calls for at least 50% of electricity generation from renewables by 2035.

  • As expected, US renewable electricity generation surpassed coal for the first time in April.

  • The European solar market is rebounding.

Five US Senators introduced a bill on Wednesday that would legislate the US to achieve at least 50% renewable electricity nationwide by 2035.

US Senators Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), and Angus King (I–Maine) introduced the Renewable Electricity Standard (RES) Act of 2019, which aims to put the US on a path to achieve complete decarbonization of its power sector by 2050, in accordance with the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 1.5°C Special Report.

The bill aims to:

  • Create a federal floor-setting standard that requires each retail electricity provider to increase its supply of renewable energy by a percentage of total retail sales each year, starting in 2020.

  • Each kilowatt hour of electric energy generated by a new renewable resource will be entitled to a Renewable Electricity Credit (REC), which will be turned in for compliance. Under limited circumstances, certain existing facilities that increase their generation, repower, or are not being used to meet state RESs or voluntary market demand could also receive RECs.

  • Achieves at least 50 percent electricity from renewables in the US by 2035, roughly double business as usual and nearly triple current levels (17.6% in 2018).

  • Requires the Secretary of Energy to submit a plan to Congress for changes to the program post-2035 to achieve zero-carbon electricity by 2050.

A federal standard wouldn’t have to eliminate existing state renewable goals, either — rather, it would force other states to join in. While the bill seems unlikely to pass in a GOP-controlled Senate, it’s important to push such legislation regardless.

Passing Coal

As predicted by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEFFA) in April, US electricity generation from renewable sources did indeed pass generation from coal during that month, the US Energy Information Administration confirmed:

Renewables also recently surpassed coal in total US capacity, as well. The EIA notes that despite coal’s decline, it’s still likely to provide more annual electricity generation than renewables both this year and next. Renewables should pass nuclear in that regard next year, and coal not long after that.

April 2019 also saw a new record for wind generation — 30.2 million MWh. The EIA expects solar to break its own generation record set last June this summer.

Euro Solar

Europe’s annual solar market is set to double over the next few years, according to new analysis from Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables. Those improved numbers — coming after years of depressed installations — are expected to be sustained into the future, as well.

While solar is on the rise in a number of strengthening markets, including Germany and France, Spain has come from next-to-nothing to positioning itself as a “globally significant solar market,” as Greentech Media writes.

Large developers and utilities are entering the market in Spain. Spanish utility Iberdrola recently announced plans to construct what would be the largest solar farm in Europe, a 590 MW project. (The US now has a larger solar farm planned, a 690 MW project bound for Nevada that will be paired with a battery storage system.)

WoodMac expects 18.8 GW in solar installations across Europe this year, compared to just 10.7 GW last year. The market should reach 25 GW annually by 2022. The market has also shifted away from subsidies, to competitive auctions and subsidy-free projects.

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