OK, You Met Your Renewable Goals — Now What?
Windmills are scattered along the Sacramento River near Rio Vista, California. The state recently became the second, following Hawaii, to require that 100 percent of its electricity come from renewables by 2045. Rich Pedroncelli/The Associated Press
State laws boosting wind and solar power have seen remarkable success over the past two decades.
But in the past couple of years, the role of renewable portfolio standards — state requirements for utilities to supply a minimum amount of retail electricity from renewable energy — has waned, according to a Lawrence Berkeley National Lab study. In some cases the use of renewables has grown even without mandates, but many environmental leaders contend they are still necessary to drive growth in the industry.
As half of the 29 states with a renewable portfolio standard (RPS) reach their final target year by 2021, lawmakers deciding whether to extend the targets face a fundamental question: Has renewable energy become economically viable enough for utilities to embrace it without a nudge from government? The answer is likely to depend largely on regional differences. The Northeast, Mid-Atlantic and West have relied mainly on mandates to drive growth, while booming wind capacity in Texas and the Midwest already has far outpaced RPS goals.
Politics also will likely play a role. California this week became the second state, following Hawaii, to require that 100 percent of its electricity come from renewable sources by 2045. “Today California sends an unmistakable message to the nation and the world: Regardless of who occupies the White House, California will always lead on climate change,” Democratic state Sen. Kevin de León, who wrote the bill, said during the bill signing.
President Donald Trump, by contrast, has vocally supported the coal industry, and his administration has moved to roll back several climate regulations and to leave the Paris Climate Accord, under which signatories pledged to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. Several states, Texas among them, have seen their oil and natural gas drilling surge in the past two years with the rise in oil prices.
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