The Real RPS Story is Not Rollback

Early this year there was a great deal of public discourse around efforts to roll back state renewable portfolio standards (RPS), but not all the RPS action in state legislatures this year has been negative. In total, there are 121 unique proposals introduced since January to increase, modify or rollback state RPS policies. As this year’s session comes to a close in most states, its time to take stock of how RPS polices have fared. 

The Center for the New Energy Economy has published a series of white papers on legislative policy trends, based on information in the AEL Tracker, which is a collaboration between CNEE and AEE. “State Renewable Portfolio Standards Hold Steady or Expand in 2013 Session” is the fourth in this series. What follows presents a summary of the state-by-state RPS analysis. Click here to read the full version.

First a word about methods. We grouped RPS legislation into three categories: rollbacks, increases and modifications. Rollback includes outright repeals as well as proposals for extending target deadlines, reducing targets, delaying implementation, and adding eligibility for non-renewable fuels and large capacity legacy hydroelectric resources. Legislation to increase an RPS generally creates a larger market by raising renewable generation targets, creating new carve-outs for specific generation sources, or adding new targets for additional utilities. Finally, bills classified in the modification category include provisions that strengthen or weaken a standard, but do not go so far as to increase or rollback an RPS. These bills address eligible resources, including small hydroelectric resources, modify credit multipliers, adjust alternative compliance payments (ACPs), administrative penalties, or provisions related to renewable energy credits (RECs).

Four Trends 

Trend 1. The overall net impact of the 2013 legislative session is that the state RPS market is larger overall, particularly in the three states that increased standards: Nevada (SB 252), Colorado (also SB 252) and Minnesota (HF 956). See map below.

2013 State RPS Policy

Trend 2. There has been a flurry of state RPS activity this session, with 121 individual proposals introduced in 30 states, predominantly in states with existing RPS standards. However, only 16 proposals in eight states have enacted so far, and all made changes that we categorized as either an increase or a modification (see table). 

Table 1. RPS Enacted Legislation by State

Table 1: RPS Enacted Legislation by State

Trend 3. States where rollback bills were proposed in the end did not, or have yet to, enact such legislation. In Ohio (SB 34) and North Carolina (HB 298 and SB 365), where sessions have yet to end, rollback proposals have stalled in committee; neither of the North Carolina bills made it out of the originating house by “crossover day,” so they are effectively dead. Traditional RPS “rollback” methods, such as cost caps, were not as big a focus this session as they once were. Expanding resource eligibility to large-scale legacy hydropower and non-renewable fuel sources appears to be the new trend in attempts to scale back RPS policies. These proposals have also been unsuccessful this session.

Trend 4. The most common policy type, overall, was expansion in the definitions of eligible resources, both in the type of resources and duration of eligibility. Of the 66 modification bills, 36 dealt with eligible resources. Of these, eight bills in five states have been enacted. Hydroelectric generation was added in Connecticut (SB 1138) and Montana (SB 45), though Connecticut’s Act also amends the state’s standard from 20% by 2020 for Class I resources to 25% by 2025, allowing up to 7.5% of this to be met by hydropower, and only after a shortage of Class I resources is determined (for a detailed account of Connecticut’s action on RPS, see here). Solar thermal energy gained some ground in Maryland (HB 1534) and Virginia (HB 1917). And while Virginia’s HB 2180 requires that qualifying electricity is generated, not simply purchased, within the state, Washington’s SB 5400 allows utilities to use renewable resources located outside of the state. Interpreting the impact on future resource blends in these states will require further analysis.

Reflecting on the analysis, Bill Ritter Jr., Director of the Center, commented, “Despite attempts to roll back state renewable energy policies this year, the net impact thus far in the 2013 session is that the U.S. renewable energy market is stronger. States are clearly defending their RPS policies and, in some cases, increasing them."

Topics: State Policy Update, Guest Post