Mandated Use of Renewable Energy Sources

Renewable portfolio standards (RPSs) are used to increase renewable energy generation by requiring electric utility providers to supply a minimum amount of electricity from renewable energy sources* by a predetermined date. The figure below shows the states that have RPS requirements and goals as of March 2009 (33 states and the District of Columbia) [1]. The RPS requirements are all different but generally specify that 10-30% of the electricity sales in the state will be from renewable energy sources by the year 2015-2025.

Now, many people, without hesitation, will agree that getting more electricity from renewable sources, such as solar, wind, and tide, is a good, sound course of action for a variety of reasons. What people don’t agree on is whether RPSs should be used or not.

Currently, the coalition, Maine Citizens for Clean Energy, is getting signatures for a ballot initiative that will change Maine’s current RPS, 10% by 2017, to 14% by 2017 and 20% by 2020 [2].  They state that this will lower energy prices and increase the number of jobs [3].

The governor of Maine, Gov. Paul LePage, told a group on Thursday (January 26, 2012) that this ballot initiative “will destroy the state of Maine” [4]. Governor LePage stated that according to the Maine Public Utilities Commission, the group’s plan would increase electricity costs from $44 to $88 million per year [5]. Maine already has the 12th highest electricity prices in the nation, and Gov. LePage says that the increased prices will hurt the economy and job growth [5]. In his own words, Gov. LePage believes consumers should have the “choice when it comes to energy decisions, rather than government imposing mandates on Maine people [5]”.

Now, the group’s new RPS proposal is not astonishing or sensational compared with other states’ RPSs (listed here in [1]). Furthermore, one study stated that the initiative would initially increase residential bills up to 84 cents a month but would then save $8.70 by 2030 [6]. A poll last October indicated that 76 percent of Maine favors the initiative with 17 percent opposed and 7 percent undecided [6, the comments from this source give an energetic representation of what some Mainers are thinking].

What would you vote if you were a Mainer? The answer is not simply whether you think your state should rely more on renewable sources but concerns who should make the decision of where your electricity comes from. Or is your answer based on balancing the short-term and long-term economic ramifications? Studies have shown that states with a binding RPS have electricity prices that are 39% higher [7]. Should your reasoning be based on the long-term environmental costs/benefits? Clearly, the difficulty is that there are different reasons why people will either support or oppose RPSs and it is challenging to quantify the economic/environmental effects.

Obviously, whatever happens in Maine will affect us here in Texas very little. However, while there currently is no federal RPS, the idea has been floating around, though each attempt has failed. For example, in 2009, President Obama proposed that 10% of U.S. electricity come from renewable sources by 2012 and 25% by 2025, a national standard that was to be incorporated into a comprehensive energy bill [8].

RPSs offer a solution to incorporate more renewable energy technologies. Many states already have RPSs, and in the future, a national RPS could become mandated. The issues surrounding RPSs are both economic and environmental, and there are many people that support or oppose RPSs. Mainers** are debating the issue now. What do you think?

*Note that different states have different requirements of what is considered a renewable source, as seen in the following figure [1].

**An interesting Maine side note: the DOE recently reported that Maine could potentially supply 10% of the nation’s tidal power energy (15 terrawatt-hours of electricity per year) [9].

1. http://www.epa.gov/chp/state-policy/renewable_fs.html

2. http://www.nawindpower.com/naw/e107_plugins/content/content.php?content.9292

3.http://www.cleanenergymaine.org/pdfs/Maine%20Citizens%20for%20Clean%20Energy%20factsheet.pdf

4. http://www.onlinesentinel.com/news/lepage-energy-bill-would-kill-jobs_2012-01-26.html

5. http://mdi.villagesoup.com/column/columnpost/energy-proposal-a-job-killer/480346

6. http://www.kjonline.com/opinion/renewable-energy-is-a-moral-imperative_2012-01-24.html

7. http://www.instituteforenergyresearch.org/pdf/statereport.pdf

8. http://green.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/02/20/next-up-a-renewable-portfolio-standard/

9. http://www.sustainablebusinessoregon.com/national/2012/01/maine-could-generate-10-percent-of.html

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “Mandated Use of Renewable Energy Sources

  1. ghasemidoroh

    Thank you for this interesting topic.
    I think every one knows nowadays that we should move towards renewable sources of energy, I want to make two points for its advantages.
    One can easily look through the numbers we have for our current reserves of non-renewable sources of energy and conclude that it is mandatory to decrease the dependency on these sources. These sources are available on the earth in limited quantity and will vanish fifty-sixty years from now. Hence we should prepare ourselves for the day in which we have to use renewable sources of energy.

    There is another benefit for using renewable sources of energy. Usually they do not create pollution in the atmosphere or at least they only produce small amounts. This can be compared with non-renewable energy sources which often rely on the burning of fossil fuels that produce dangerous gases that often end up in the atmosphere.

    However we can not ignore price of non-renewable energy which is cheaper compared to renewable energy. Hence we need a plan like PRS to slowly increase use of renewable energy sources with an economic, managed and organized plan.

    Last, for those readers who are interested: The following website has really good information about use of renewable energy for electricity generation.
    http://world-nuclear.org/info/inf10.html

    • Renewables is a very interesting topic and there are now many advantages of using these type os energy sources, but there are still many negative aspects around it. Governments should be enforcing the use of renewable energy, but as you mention in your post, non-renewable sources of energy are still more “cost-efficient” than renewables.

      There are also some other aspects different from what you are mentioning in your post that we should also care about, such as:

      What are companies doing in order to improve the manufacturing process of renewable energy sources such as solar panels or wind turbines? Are their processes sustainable? How are the governments regulating these companies? Basically my point here is about the way that governments are measuring the footprint of these manufacturing facilities.

  2. meganleseberg

    I definitely support the idea of renewable energy portfolio standards. Although renewable energies are currently more expensive than conventional technologies, the price would not feel nearly as severe when spread across thousands of people. I feel that many people would be willing to spend an extra $0.84 every month to get their energy from clean, carbon-free energy sources; I know I would. Also, with advancing technologies, the high costs associated with renewable energies, such as wind and solar, are continuously going down. One report shows that wind turbine prices have fallen by approximately 33% since 2008 [1]. This is very promising for our clean energy future.

    Furthermore, I think RPSs are a step in the right direction for the US as a nation. It is a positive acknowledgement on a governmental level of the effects our fossil fuel consumption are having, and will continue to have, on the earth. The US carries a lot of weight by consuming 25% of the world’s energy with only 5% of the world population; therefore, we should be a leader in the transformation to a more carbon-free energy world.

    1. http://www.renewableenergyfocus.com/view/21781/us-wind-turbine-prices-fallen-by-a-third-since-2008/

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