A renewable portfolio standard (RPS), also known as a renewable electricity standard (RES), is a state-level policy that requires electric utilities to gradually increase the amount of renewable energy that they deliver to their customers. These are proven policies with long track records of success.
By design, an RPS does not hand pick a technology; rather all renewables are able to compete, incentivizing cost reductions and efficiency gains. As a result, RPS policies encourage the growth of additional homegrown electricity sources that diversify our energy portfolios, spur local economic development, reduce pollution, cut water consumption, and save consumers money.
Today, 30 states plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have RPS policies in place, while another seven states have non-binding renewable energy goals. State RPS targets range widely from 10 percent to 100 percent renewable energy. The District of Columbia and Hawaii lead the nation with targets of 100 percent by 2032 and 100 percent by 2045, respectively.
Many states have been expanding their targets in recent years and several others are considering future increases, showing the success of RPS programs to date. Historically, wind energy has been the top renewable energy technology of choice to meet RPS targets, accounting for 64 percent of all RPS-related renewable capacity additions to date.
Most importantly, the impact of RPS policies on consumers has been minimal, with many in fact seeing lower electric bills because of them. Because wind’s costs have fallen by 70 percent over the past decade, it’s the cheapest source of new electric generating capacity in many parts of the country. In fact, a Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) study found that renewable energy developed to meet state RPS requirements in 2013 reduced consumer electricity bills by up to $1.2 billion. In many areas, adding renewable electricity is saving ratepayers money. For example, Xcel, Colorado’s largest utility, says that the state’s RPS will ultimately save consumers as much as $100 million over 25 years.
Finally, RPS policies benefit the American economy and environment. A 2016 LBNL report examined potential future impacts of RPS policies from 2015 to 2050 and identified the following benefits:
- Renewable energy growth to meet existing RPS targets will create an estimated 4.7 million job-years of employment
- Reductions in air pollution from RPS-driven renewables will lead to $258 billion in health and environmental benefits, and a four percent reduction in energy-related water consumption
- In most cases these benefits can be achieved at no net cost, and in some cases electricity prices could be reduced by up to 2.4 cents per kilowatt-hour.