States can boost renewable energy capacity at bargain-basement prices, a new study finds.
Federal researchers examined the 29 states where renewable portfolio standards (RPS’s) have been in place for more than five years. They concluded that these standards, which require utilities to generate a certain percentage of power from clean sources, led to the development of 46,000 megawatts of renewable capacity up until 2012 — and that they raised electricity rates by an average of less than 2 percent.
Here are a few more takeaways from the study by NREL/LBL.
- "Policymakers often consider RPS costs within the context of broader social benefits beyond any direct cost savings that may accrue to utilities. Potential benefits of RPS policies include reduced emissions, water savings, fuel diversity, electricity price stability, and economic development."
- "Some types of benefits, such as avoided emissions, can accrue for the lifetime of the renewable energy plant, while costs are incurred typically over a shorter period."
"A number of the studies examined economic development benefits annually or over the lifespan of the renewable energy projects, with benefits on the order of $1-$6 billion, or $22-30/MWh of renewable generation."
" Whether using a proxy generator, wholesale market prices, or modeling tools, a carbon price could be added to the comparison scenario given that some states or utilities may have a preference for procuring low-carbon resources."
The bottom line is that switching from dirty fossil fuels to clean, renewable energy makes sense for a wide variety reasons. Arguments against making that switch are deeply flawed, as this NREL/LBL study demonstrates with regard to cost.