The U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory has released its annual status report on U.S. renewable portfolio standards (RPS). The report describes recent legislative changes, key policy design features, compliance with interim targets, past and projected impacts on renewables development, and compliance costs.
Key trends include:
Evolution of state RPS programs: States continue to refine and revise their RPS policies. Among other changes since the start of 2019, eight states enacted higher RPS targets or created new clean-energy/zero-carbon targets (Arizona, the District of Columbia, Maryland, New Mexico, Nevada, Virginia, and Washington), in most cases setting targets equal to at least 50% of retail sales.
Historical impacts on renewables development: Roughly half of all growth in U.S. renewable electricity generation and capacity since 2000 is associated with state RPS requirements. That percentage has declined in recent years, representing 23% of all U.S. renewable energy capacity additions in 2019. However, within particular regions—the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic—RPS policies remain a dominant driver.
Future RPS demand and incremental needs: RPS demand growth through 2030 will require roughly 90 GW of new renewable energy capacity. Growth also will require total U.S. non-hydro renewable energy generation to reach 17% of electricity sales (compared to 12% in 2019). Relative to projections from the Energy Information Administration, this amounts to roughly one-third of projected renewable energy growth over the next decade.
RPS target achievement to-date: States have generally met their interim RPS targets in recent years, with exceptions generally reflecting unique, state-specific issues.
Renewable Energy Certificate (REC) pricing trends: Prices for New England Power Pool (NEPOOL) Class I RECs rose over 2019, reaching $40/MWh and remaining at roughly that level over 2020. Farther south, PJM Tier I REC prices rose over the course of 2020, reaching $10/MWh by year-end. Prices for solar RECs remained relatively stable over 2020, and continue to exhibit wide variation across states, with the highest prices ($200-450/MWh) in New Jersey, Massachusetts, and the District of Columbia.
RPS compliance costs: RPS compliance costs in 2019 averaged roughly 2.6% of retail electricity bills in RPS states, compared to 2.3% in 2018. Costs in most states ranged from 0.5% to 4.5% of retail electricity bills.
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Massachusetts rigged their RPS with a “solar carve-out” that required a certain amount of the RPS renewable energy to be solar PV only. This put the other renewables at a disadvantage. Given the chance, politicians like to pick the winners and losers
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