WASHINGTON A bipartisan group of U.S. senators will introduce legislation on Tuesday that would require utilities to generate minimum levels of power from clean energy like wind and solar, after such a measure was stripped from a broader oil-spill bill in July.
Senators Jeff Bingaman, a Democrat who heads the Senate energy committee, and Sam Brownback, a Republican, will unveil the standalone bill in the afternoon.
"I think that the votes are present in the Senate to pass a renewable electricity standard," Bingaman said in a release. "I think that we need to get on with figuring out what we can pass and move forward."
Bingaman's office said Senators Sue Collins, a Republican, and Byron Dorgan and Tom Udall, both Democrats, would attend Tuesday's conference unveiling the bill.
In July, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid removed climate measures from the energy bill, saying he could get no Republican votes. Democrats from some states in the Midwest and South that lack strong solar and wind resources had also opposed the measure.
A month later, Reid said he hoped the renewable electricity standard could be added back to the energy bill and be passed in a lame-duck session after the November 2 congressional elections because lawmakers may feel more free to vote for such a program.
A congressional staffer told Reuters on Monday that the standalone bill would be similar to one that passed last year in Bingaman's energy committee, but did not elaborate.
The new bill would set a 15 percent renewable target by 2021 and allow states to meet up to a quarter of the target through energy-efficiency measures.
The staffer said the bill would require utilities to start the program in 2012 and new hydrogen power would count as a renewable fuel. New nuclear power would not count toward the mandate.
Last year, the House of Representatives had approved a similar measure requiring 15 percent renewable power by 2020.
The Energy Department's National Renewable Energy Laboratory said this year that wind energy could generate 20 percent of the power needed by households and businesses in the eastern half of the United States by 2024, but would require up to $90 billion in investment.
(Reporting by Timothy Gardner and Tom Doggett; Editing by Dale Hudson)