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Public Statements

Statements on Introduced Bills and Joint Resolutions- S. 421

Location: Washington, DC

Feb. 14, 2003

By Ms. CANTWELL (for herself, Mr. SMITH, Mrs. MURRAY, and Mrs. FEINSTEIN):

S. 421. A bill to reauthorize and revise the Renewable Energy Production Incentive program, and for other purposes; to the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.

Ms. CANTWELL. Mr. President, I rise today to introduce—along with my colleagues Senators SMITH, MURRAY and FEINSTEIN—the Renewable Energy Production Incentive, REPI, Reform Act.

This bill reauthorizes the REPI program, which was created as part of the 1992 National Energy Policy Act to foster greater renewable energy production and level the playing field for public power utilities, which do not qualify for renewable energy tax credits. The REPI program provides direct payments to publicly- and cooperatively-owned utilities at a rate of 1.5 cents/kWh, indexed for inflation, for electricity generated from wind, solar, certain geothermal and biomass sources.

As some of my colleagues may recall, the Senator from Oregon and I introduced a very similar bill last session, which was subsequently included in the energy bill that passed the Senate last spring. While conferees were ultimately unable to reach agreement on the broader energy bill, reauthorizing the REPI program must remain a priority as we again contemplate energy legislation during the 108th Congress.

Since this program's creation, REPI has become an important incentive for locally-owned, not-for-profit utilities to become involved in the effort to diversify our Nation's generation sources to include clean, sustainable sources of power. Since 1995, more than 36 projects in 17 States have received more than $21 million in REPI incentives and produced more than 3,000 megawatt-hours of electricity per year.

In my home State of Washington, where 55 percent of the overall energy load is served by public power, the REPI program had already helped support wood-waste and landfill gas projects, and promises to help locally-owned utilities tap into our tremendous wind resources. Already, the hills south of Kennewick, WA are home to the Nine Canyon Wind project—a 48-megawatt wind farm consisting of 37 turbines—producing enough energy to serve 12,000 households. This bill will provide continued support for these innovative projects.

The Renewable Energy Production Incentive Reform Act that my colleagues and I have introduced today will do three simple things. It will: reauthorize the program for another 10 years; direct the Department of Energy, which runs the program, to allocate funds on a more equitable basis in years in which the demand for REPI dollars far outpaces available appropriations; and clarifies that landfill gas projects and tribal governments are eligible to receive REPI funding.

One of the key challenges in developing a 21st century energy policy for this Nation is putting in place the proper incentives to add new and sustainable sources of power to the grid. My colleagues and I from the Northwest have learned this lesson well over the past few years, during which prolonged droughts have stretched to the limit the hydroelectric system that has—since the 1930s—formed the basis for our region's economic growth. The new clean energy projects the REPI program supports help relieve some of the stress on our hydro system and position my state and region for the next cycle of innovation in energy technology.

I look forward to working with my cosponsors during this session to ensure this small but important program is reauthorized—whether as stand-alone legislation or part of a broader energy bill. I believe we as a Nation now stand on the cusp of a revolution in clean energy technology. The Renewable Energy Production Incentive program is key in helping public power systems participate, as we work to put in place an energy policy that will meet the needs of our 21st Century economy.

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