Coal would lose out big to nuclear and renewables, while average electricity prices would rise, under the clean energy standard proposed by Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairman Jeff Bingaman, the Energy Information Administration reported on Wednesday.
The Clean Energy Standard Act by Bingaman, D-N.M., would prompt average electricity prices to rise 4 percent by 2025 and 18 percent by 2035, as generators are forced to add more renewable and nuclear generation, EIA said.
It cautioned, however, that price impacts would vary widely because the bill exempts smaller electric providers.
Bingaman’s plan would fulfill President Barack Obama’s call for an 80 percent clean electricity standard by 2035, which would effectively double the share of zero-carbon electricity.
EIA said Bingaman’s bill would cut carbon emissions from the power sector by 20 percent by 2025 and 44 percent by 2035.
Bingaman had no immediate comment. He scheduled a hearing on May 17, but the bill is not expected to advance this year because of opposition in the Senate to comprehensive energy legislation and opposition among House Republicans to a new federal energy mandate. Bingaman is to retire at the end of the year as well.
Bingaman has, however, portrayed the legislation as a starting point for consideration of a federal standard that goes beyond state mandates and voluntary targets.
He contends a technology-neutral standard would limit carbon emissions without using a cap-and-trade system, which has become political poison since passage of an Obama-endorsed bill by House Democrats in 2009 over Republican opposition.
Bingaman’s bill would grant clean credits for coal power that uses carbon capture and sequestration technology, but EIA discounted the likelihood of that outcome. It projected that no CCS-equipped plants would be built by 2035, and that coal plant retirements would triple compared to current projections.
Much of the retired capacity, some 97 gigawatts, would be replaced by nuclear in the long term, EIA said, but natural gas use would surge in the early years and end up higher by 21 percent in 2035.
Renewable energy, led by wind and biomass generation, would grow 34 percent over current projections.
The big winner would be nuclear power. EIA projected it would supply an additional 80 gigawatts, compared to just 10 gigawatts more by 2035 without the bill. EIA also noted that if new nuclear power is not put in place beyond plants already expected, natural gas and renewables will fill the gap, but at the cost of higher electricity prices.
The full EIA analysis can be seen here.