Report: State renewable energy standards succeeding, at little cost

©2016 E&E Publishing, LLC
Republished with permission

By Rod Kuckro

States with renewable portfolio standards have been highly successful at meeting their targets, with a handful of states setting higher targets within the past year while at the same time average compliance costs added an average of 1.3 percent to customer bills.

Those are among the findings of an annual report from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory that looks at the mandatory renewables policies in 29 states and the District of Columbia.

“RPS policies are just one part of the larger renewable electricity pie,” said Galen Barbose, the research scientist who authored the report, which is presented as a graphics-rich slide deck.

“Which is to say there is a lot of renewable energy development happening outside of these programs. But that’s not to say these programs haven’t been impactful and a critical driver for some of that growth,” he said in an interview.

Mandatory RPS policies require utilities or other electricity providers to generate a minimum portion of their supply from eligible forms of renewable electricity or renewable electricity certificates.

They have been around since 1983, when Iowa adopted the first one. But their prevalence took hold in the early 2000s, and many states have revised their standards since to make them more aggressive. A small number of states have voluntary goals for renewable energy deployment, and they are not tracked by this report.

The latest LBNL report found that more than half of all growth in renewable electricity generation (60 percent) since 2000 is associated with state RPS requirements, with wind energy being the primary form of new generation capacity (64 percent), except in 2015, when solar was the largest source at 69 percent.

But renewable energy is also expanding in states without an RPS, Barbose said, with 13 states installing capacity to serve the demands of other states in the region to meet their renewables goals.

“A lot of complex factors go into determining which states have and don’t have an RPS,” Barbose said, and that was especially true 10 to 15 years ago when the “economics of renewables were a little bit different and there was a greater need to provide some sort of impetus.”

Today, in states with and without a renewable standard, the addition of large amounts of wind and solar power is being used by “utilities procuring renewable energy on a straight economics basis or to hedge their exposure to fossil fuel price risk or environmental regulatory risk,” he said.

On top of that, large commercial and industrial customers are demanding renewables to satisfy corporate environmental goals and to lock in inexpensive long-term power contracts where variable fuel cost will not be an issue, Barbose said.

As a result, five states – Michigan, Montana, New York, Texas and Wisconsin – reached their RPS target in 2015, and most others are on track to meet their goals in 2020 or 2025, the report said.

4 thoughts on “Report: State renewable energy standards succeeding, at little cost

    • I believe what you meant to say is that we never get to see the truth about the costs, Bob. And no, we never get to see that.

  1. Bob, it’s literally in the very first sentence of the story.

  2. Unfortunately, renewables are often than not costing more than projected and delivering less. Older solar technologies sell their energy at a much higher price than traditional power sources. Newer solar technologies are even more expensive.
    There are other issues.
    Ivanpuh, a thermal solar company that is financed by a 2.2 billion dollar loan, of which 1.6 billion is guaranteed by taxpayers. This company negotiated a contract that requires PG&E (meaning consumers) to pay it $0.136 to $0.20 per kwh compared to the $0.05 for today’s average solar contract.
    Ivanpah is not yet able to provide the electricity promised and is now looking to renegotiate its contracts and possibly going into default. More government “seed” money may be required to keep this solar money grab afloat.

    Ivanpah is being compensated 200% to 400% more per kwh than other solar energy providers, which are also artificially inflated. Coal is 25% to 50% less costly than the cheapest solar energy even with killing headwinds from EPA restrictions and ridiculous solar energy pay backs to the politically connected operatives.
    The thermal energy company, Ivanpuh, is in danger of leaving taxpayers to pay for the 1.6 billion dollar loan guarantee.
    A larger Solyndra is very possible.

    Environmental issue are a concern for solar as well. Solar thermal technology relies on mirrors to concentrate sunlight on a small area to raise the temperature of a liquid which is used to produce electricity. Thousands of birds have been cooked during this process. This solar thermal technology is a solar bird cooker.
    Balancing large scale energy needs and environmental concerns, clean coal is still the most sensible solution.