Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory: RPS’s Declining in Relative Importance, but Remain Important Clean Energy Driver

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory is out with its 2017 Annual Status Report on U.S. Renewable Portfolio Standards, and there’s a lot of interesting information to be aware of. Here are a few highlights.

  • Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) policies currently exist in 29 states plus DC and apply to 56% of total U.S. retail electricity sales.
  • There are major variations across states; RPS policies and rules are not uniform.
  • “Most RPS policies have been in place at least 10 years; states continue to make regular and significant revisions.”
  • “More than half of all RPS states have raised their overall RPS targets or carve-outs since initial RPS adoption; many in recent years.”
  • In 2016/2017, 181 RPS-related bills were introduced and 13 enacted. Most sought to strengthen or make small technical changes to RPS’s.
  • “Although many states have introduced bills to repeal, reduce, or freeze their RPS programs, only two (OH, KS) have thus far been enacted.”
  • RPS requirements have accounted for ~50% of total U.S. (non-hydro) renewable energy growth since 2000 — 146 Twh related to RPS policies out of 283 Twh total renewable energy growth.
  • “RPS role in driving [renewable growth] has varied by region…most critical in Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, West.”
  • The “RPS portion of total [renewable energy] growth has declined” in recent years, but in general has “provided a stable source of demand for [renewable energy] growth.”
  • Wind historically was “the dominant source of new-build for RPS (61% of all RPS builds to date), but solar has recently taken the mantle” (79% of 2016 RPS builds). This reflects growing solar carve-out requirements and the “increasing cost competitiveness of utility-scale solar vis-a-vis wind power.”
  • Recent wind additions have been built primarily (~79%) outside of RPS requirements.
  • “States are starting to approach final target years; half of all RPS states reach their final target year by 2021.”
  • Total U.S. RPS demand is projected to double by 2030 (roughly 55 GW will be needed by 2030 to meet RPS demand growth).
  • The “required increase in RPS generation supply equates to roughly [a] 50% increase in U.S. renewable energy generation.”
  • “Prices for RECs used to meet general RPS obligations fell in most markets in 2016, as surplus RPS supplies emerged in many regions.”

Finally, we agree with the conclusion reached by PV Magazine, that although growth in renewable power in the United States is increasingly driven by non-RPS factors, “[t]his does not mean that RPS policies are not important.” As American Council on Renewable Energy senior vice president of policy and government affairs, Todd Foley, puts it to InsideClimate News, renewable portfolio standards “have been very important and I think they’ll continue to be.”
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