States Consider Renewable Portfolio Standards for Debate in 2015

As the use of renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar power, have taken off across the U.S. in recent years, so too have state-based legislative policies that promote and incentivize growth in these burgeoning sectors. To this effect, many states have been actively adopting and tailoring policies that invest in new and alternative green energy technologies in order to benefit their own economies and the environment at the same time. The most popular among these policies has been the adoption of renewable portfolio standards, or RPS standards. Currently, 38 states and the District of Columbia have adopted these standards, and they remain an active topic of debate in committee chambers and on the floors of numerous state legislative chambers.

These standards work by either requiring or recommending that a state meet a certain percentage of its energy needs through renewable energy generation technologies. These standards vary by both target year and target goal – the most ambitious being Maine, which seeks to meet 40 percent of its energy needs through renewable means by 2017. On the opposite end of this spectrum is South Carolina, which has set a target goal of two percent by 2021.

The adoption of RPS standards over the past decade has led to overwhelmingly positive growth in the renewable energy sector. A 2014 study on the effects of these policies by the University of California has shown that they’ve spurred an eightfold increase in renewable energy generation over the past decade.

States with Renewable Portfolio Standards

States with Renewable Portfolio Standards

Source: NCSL, CQ Statetrack.

To date, Alabama, Alaska, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, Tennessee and Wyoming have not adopted any type of RPS standard and have also not introduced bills that would do so during the 2015 legislative session. Additionally, and in contrast to most state efforts, West Virginia repealed its RPS standard in January with the adoption of HB 2001, which did away with the program entirely.

Thirty states currently have RPS bills pending: Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, Vermont, Virginia and Washington. The topics of these bills can vary considerably based on legislative control of the state: Kansas is considering legislation that would sunset the program in the coming years, New Mexico is seeking to reduce their current targets, while Indiana is seeking to strengthen its program by moving from a recommended target goal to a required goal.

With 45 states still in session across the country and over 100 bills pending, it remains likely that states will continue to take further action in creating, altering or even eliminating their renewable portfolio standards.