State RPS policies, super-sized


RPS policies, adopted by 29 U.S. states and Washington, D.C., have been critical drivers of U.S. renewable-energy deployment over the past two decades. Despite polarizing partisan politics and hefty lobbying by fossil-fuel-funded interest groups in several states, these policies have remained largely intact. The only two notable setbacks have occurred in Ohio and Kansas. In 2014, Ohio enacted legislation “freezing” its RPS targets at their 2014 levels for a two-year period, therefore only temporarily stalling the policy’s impacts. In 2015, Kansas demoted its mandatory RPS to a voluntary goal. However, because Kansas had already surpassed its 20% renewables standard (thanks to cheap and plentiful wind energy), that action was mostly symbolic.

On the other hand, several states have recently expanded their RPS policies, extending the time horizons and ratcheting up the required portion of electricity that must be renewably sourced. California, Oregon, New York, Vermont and the District of Columbia have adopted policies requiring at least 50% renewables, while Hawaii became the first state to establish a 100% RPS. The upgraded RPS policies in these six jurisdictions exhibit similarities in their ambition despite their different starting points, as shown in the figure below. All five states and Washington, D.C., now require an average annual increase in renewable energy of between 1.3 and 2.1 percentage points — or a net growth of 17 to 27 percentage points — between 2017 and 2030.


Note: This article was originally published by Clean Edge on September 7, 2016. It has been updated to reflect recent RPS policy developments.