On February 17, 2010, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) circulated a draft proposal to establish a national clean energy requirement that would include nuclear, coal and certain other fossil fuel power in addition to traditional other renewable energy sources.

Sen. Graham has been working with Senators John Kerry (D-MA) and Joe Lieberman (I-CT) to reach a bipartisan compromise on a climate and energy bill that could gain at least 60 supporters to withstand a filibuster attempt.  However, Graham was the only author of the draft bill, and neither Kerry nor Lieberman have endorsed Graham’s proposal.

Graham’s draft would create a federal renewable portfolio standard requiring electric utilities to obtain 13 percent of their electricity from eligible clean energy resources from 2012 to 2014.  That percentage would increase to 15 percent by 2019, and the percentage would increase by five percent every five years thereafter.  The bill would allow energy efficiency improvements to count towards 25 percent of the standard.  Electric utilities located in Hawaii or those selling less than four million megawatt-hours of electricity would be exempt from the national clean energy standard.  Clean energy generation facilities located on Native American land would qualify for double credits, and small clean energy generators (no larger than 1 megawatt) would receive triple credits.

New nuclear power plants as well as coal-fired plants that capture and permanently sequester 65 percent of the their greenhouse gases would qualify for a nationwide “clean energy” standard under Sen. Graham’s draft discussion bill.  Wind and solar power facilities and certain types of biomass and hydropower facilities also would qualify for the standard.  Additionally, the bill would encourage retirement of older fossil-fuel plants by allowing those that had more than 2,500 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions per megawatt-hour of generation to count toward the “clean energy” standard if they shut down, or convert to natural gas, by January 1, 2014.  The owner of the retired facility would earn 0.25 clean energy credits for five years from the date of retirement, based on the average annual amount of electricity generated by the facility during its final three years of operation.

The bill also would provide loan guarantees for at least sixty new nuclear reactors.  This idea is similar to a previous provision in draft proposal floated by Sen. Lieberman that garnered bi-partisan support last year.

The full text of the discussion draft legislation is available at http://thehill.com/images/stories/blogs/graham%20ces1.pdf