Bennet Reintroduces Clean Energy Race to the Top

Bill Creates $5 Billion Grant Program to Grow Clean Energy Economy, Create Jobs

Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet yesterday reintroduced a bill to incentivize states and communities to work with local energy businesses to utilize clean energy technologies that help reduce carbon pollution.

The Clean Energy Race to the Top Act would establish a $5 billion competitive grant program for states and local governments that enact policies that move the clean energy economy forward. The bill would be fully paid for.

“The United States is primed to lead the way toward a clean energy economy that will create jobs right here at home,” Bennet said. “This bill encourages leadership and innovation by relying on the creativity and ingenuity of our local energy businesses and state and local governments. It incentivizes states to take advantage of the clean energy technologies being developed in our backyards and to put together dynamic plans to create a clean and diverse energy portfolio in this country. Best of all, it will create jobs in the U.S. and help end our dependence on foreign oil.”

Under the bill, states, local governments, or public-private partnerships would be eligible to apply for competitive grants to develop and carry out clean energy and carbon reduction measures. Their applications would be evaluated based on a reviewing, scoring and ranking system. Possible measures garnering points include:

  • Renewable electricity standards, such as those enacted by Colorado;
  • Regional or statewide climate action plans;
  • Increased percentage of energy efficient public buildings;
  • Participation in a regional greenhouse gas reduction program; and
  • Tax incentives for the manufacture or installation of clean energy components or energy efficiency upgrades.

Bennet originally introduced the bill in 2010. Former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm recently renewed momentum for the idea at this year’s “All Stars” event held by the U.S. Department of Energy in January.

The bill is supported by a coalition of local Colorado businesses, industry associations, and environmental groups including the Solar Energy Industries Association, Sierra Club, and others.

“The U.S. solar energy industry applauds Senator Bennet for his leadership on the Clean Energy Race to the Top Act,” said Rhone Resch, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). SEIA represents more than 32 Colorado-based solar companies and over 1,000 solar companies nationwide. “Solar is experiencing unprecedented growth – 76% in 2012 – and our industry is ready to rise to the challenge and play an even bigger role in the nation’s energy mix. Passing this legislation will send a message that it is time to diversify our energy portfolio and expand the clean energy industry here in the U.S. By investing in solar, our nation can continue to create thousands of new jobs, save consumers money on their electricity bills, and reduce air pollution.”

“The Sierra Club applauds Senator Bennet for his leadership in introducing the Clean Energy Race to the Top Act,” said Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club. “This bill will empower states that are already leading the way on clean energy to build on their current progress, while incentivizing the rest of the country to grow its clean energy capacity. The plan is simple, but the benefits will be truly significant. By creating incentives for communities to support clean energy, we will cut dangerous carbon pollution, create good-paying American jobs, and help ensure our children have safe, breathable air and clean water for their future.”

“Given the lack of action by the U.S. Senate to pass a comprehensive energy bill, Senator Bennet’s innovative program is a critical move in the right direction,” said Andrew Currie, Director of Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2) Rocky Mountains, which represents over 80 businesses in Colorado and 850 businesses nationwide. E2 members have created over 500,000 jobs nationwide and collectively manage over $90 billion of venture capital and private equity. “It will help fund up-front investments enabling more states, counties, and cities to act, which will quickly create a larger U.S. market for energy-efficient products and services, which in turn will create many much needed new energy economy jobs.”