THEGREENGROK

Isn’t It About Time for a U.S. Renewable Energy Standard?


by Bill Chameides | November 14th, 2008
posted by Erica Rowell (Editor)

Permalink | 4 comments

More than half the states in the union have committed to generating a portion of their electricity from renewable sources. But why isn’t there a national standard?

The elections produced mixed results for progress on renewable energy. Missouri upped the amount it plans to get from sources like wind and solar. California did not. But what’s going on at the federal level?

By my count 29 states and the District of Columbia have either a renewable energy portfolio standard (RPS), which mandates a percentage of the electricity produced in that state come from some form of renewable energy, or a non-binding renewable goal (see graphic).

Not surprisingly, the number of states with standards (and thus the share of electricity to come from renewables) has been on the rise, but increases in state RPS’s are not a slam dunk.

California is the leader of the pack, with more than 12,000 megawatts (MW) of renewable power mandated by 2025. On Election Day, California voters had a chance to ramp up its share of renewables to 50 percent by 2025. Opponents of the proposition argued that the standard would unnecessarily increase consumer costs and would actually discourage rather than encourage development of some renewable energy projects. Right or wrong, the opponents prevailed, and the proposition was nixed.

Voters from Missouri went the other way and passed a new RPS, requiring that 15 percent of its energy come from renewable sources by 2021.

States are doing a laudable job moving the country toward renewable energy. If fully implemented by 2025, the standards and goals established by the states would contribute the equivalent of about 9 percent of the nation’s current generating capacity. This could potentially offset about 200 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, or about 3 percent of the country’s current CO2 emissions.

Three percent, though nothing to sneeze at, is not going to be adequate to meet the kind of emissions reductions many scientist estimate will be necessary to avoid dangerous climate change. A national standard for renewable energy could get us further down the renewables road. But so far Congress has opted against boldly stepping into the future.

We do have a renewable production tax credit to encourage wind, solar, and other renewable energy projects, but there’s no national standard for renewables. The energy bill passed in December 2007 had considered one, but it didn’t survive the final bill (see here and here). An extension of the production tax credit barely squeaked through at the last minute.

States have often led the way in environmental standards in the United States. For example, California was the testing ground for emissions controls on automobiles. But at some point, federal action is usually needed to bring some level of uniformity to the hodgepodge of state standards – if for no other reason than to allow corporations to operate effectively at the national level. Maybe we have now arrived at that point.

Total generating capacity states will gain from new renewable energy sources once their Renewable Portfolio Standards or non-binding commitments take effect (http://apps1.eere.energy.gov/states/maps/renewable_portfolio_states.cfm). Based on 2006 net summer generating data from the Energy Information Administration (http://www.eia.doe.gov/cneaf/electricity/st_profiles/e_profiles_sum.html).

 

 

filed under: climate change, energy, faculty, renewable energy
and: , , ,

4 Comments

All comments are moderated and limited to 275 words. Your e-mail address is never displayed. Read our Comment Guidelines for more details.

  1. Thomas F Stacy
    Dec 29, 2008

    The author wrote: “..States are doing a laudable job moving the country toward renewable energy. If fully implemented by 2025, the standards and goals established by the states would contribute the equivalent of about 9 percent of the nation’s current generating capacity. This could potentially offset about 200 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, or about 3 percent of the country’s current CO2 emissions..” I am a co-founder of a North American consortium of scientists, environmentalists and energy industry experts called AWED – the Alliance for W. We believe in transparency and accountability in providing stable, affordable electric power while measurably improving environmental standards. I am interested in the references and specific traceable methods for calculating the CO2 offsets of wind and solar. Our organization will create a standard, and it must include modeled and real world evidence of the proper offset ratios in various regional generation mix scenarios, weather and demand cycle patterns and the derived achievable demand and supply instantaneous ramp rates over the relevant cycle frequencies. Along with loftier goals, we would like to help save the wind energy industry the embarrassment suffered in the UK last week,reviewable here: http://earthblips.dailyradar.com/story/promoters_overstated_the_environmental_benefit_of_wind/ Any meaningful formulaic data will be greatly appreciated!” title=”CO2 savings of wind?

    • erica
      Jan 5, 2009

      DR. BILL CHAMEIDES replies: Tom, See below for several studies that look specifically at life cycle CO2 emissions for solar (photovoltaic) and wind. The National Academy of Sciences is publishing a report in the near future that will have a summary of the literature on this very topic for conventional and alternative electricity sources. Sources for wind: Berry, J.E., Holland, M.R., Watkiss, P.R., Boyd, R., Stephenson, W., 1998, “Power Generation and the Environment — A UK Perspective,” European Commission, June 1998. Chataignere, A., Le Boulch, D., 2003, Final report and related references of ECLIPSE (Environmental and Ecological Life Cycle Inventories for present and future Power Systems in Europe), November 2003, European Commission. http://www.eclipse-eu.org/pubres_guide.html Source for PV: Fthenakis, V.M., Kim, H.C., Alsema E., March 2008, “Emissions from Photovoltaic Life Cycles,” Environmental Science and Technology, 44, pp. 2168-2174. http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/es071763q Sources for both: Spitzley D., Keoleian G. A., 2005, “Life Cycle Environmental and Economic Assessment of Willow Biomass Electricity: A Comparison with Other Renewable and Non-Renewable Sources,” Report # CSS04-05R, March 2004 (revised February 10, 2005), Center for Sustainable Systems University of Michigan. http://css.snre.umich.edu/css_doc/CSS04-05R.pdf Hondo, H., 2005, “Life cycle GHG emission analysis of power generation systems: Japanese case,” Energy, 30, pp 2042–2056. ftp://ftp.cpuc.ca.gov/LTPP%20Webposting/GHG%20Lifecycle%20Analysis_Research%20Papers/Hondo_Lifecycle%20GHG%20emission%20analysis%20of%20power%20geeration%20systems%20-%20Japanese%20case.pdf” title=”Sources

  2. Anthony D'Agostino
    Nov 19, 2008

    Great article – I wonder if NIEPS will be lobbying the Hill for a federal standard once the new Congress convenes. As to the number of states with RPS, the DSIRE website has a host of amazing resources on state-by-state initiatives for renewables and efficiency improvement. This slide depicts all RPS’ (both standards and goals) and is current as of this month. I thought it would be a useful resource for this informative post.” title=”Number of States with RPS

    • erica
      Nov 20, 2008

      From DR. CHAMEIDES – Anthony, Thanks.” title=”Thanks

©2015 Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University | Box 90328 | Durham, NC 27708
how to contact us > | login to the site > | site disclaimers >

footer nav stuff