Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) recently released a report on the "benefits and impacts of U.S. Renewable Portfolio Standards." This week, they also held a webinar discussing the report. Key points from the webinar, which you can view (see video to the right), include:
- Benefits and impacts from [Renewable Portfolio Standards - RPS] programs were seen in six main areas: 1) GHG emissions reductions; 2) reductions in criteria air pollution; 3) reductions in water use; 4) job creation; 5) reduced wholesale electricity prices; and 6) lower natural gas prices.
- Overall, the "benefits of [greenhouse gas - GHG] and air pollution emissions reduction" due to new Renewable Energy - RE] to meet RPS totaled ~$7.4 billion in 2013, or 7.5¢/kWh-RE.
- According to LBNL, "New RE used to meet RPS reduced fossil generation by 3.6%, 55% of which was natural gas and most of the rest was coal." That equates to avoiding about 2,500 megawatts of new fossil fuel capacity, and around 59 million metric tons of CO2 emissions in 2013.
- LBNL found average annual additions of around 5,600 megawatts of RPS-driven renewable power capacity in 2013-2014. About half of that was utility-scale PV.
- The study found that new RE due to RPS "provided between $0.7 and $6.3 billion in reduced global climate change damages in 2013," and that these benefits are worth approximately 2.2 cents per kilowatthour.
- New RE also "displaced SO2, NOx and PM2.5 emissions of 77,400 (2% of power sector), 43,900 (2%), and 4,800 (2%) metric tons, respectively."
- "RPS provided between $2.6 and $9.9 billion in health & [environmental] benefits in 2013," with these benefits worth approximately 5.3 cents per kilowatthour.
- "New RE meeting RPS programs in 2013 prevented 320–1,100 deaths, and generated a range of benefits in the form of reduced morbidity."
- Replacing fossil fuel generation with RE led to "reductions in water use in many drought-prone regions, with the largest withdrawal savings in California, and the largest consumption savings in Texas." Overall, new RE due to RPS "reduced net national water withdrawals by 830 billion gallons and net national water consumption by 27 billion gallons," with "each MWh of RE serving RPS represents average savings of 8,420 gallons of water withdrawal and 270 gallons of consumption."
- Switching to clean energy also "reduce[s] the vulnerability of electricity supply to the availability or temperature of water, potentially avoiding electric-sector reliability events and/or the effects of reduced thermal plant efficiencies." It further"frees water for other uses, whether for other productive purposes or to strengthen local ecosystems." Finally, "by avoiding upstream water demands from fossil fuel supply, RE can help alleviate other energy-sector impacts on water resource quality and quantity."
- RPS-driven clean energy "supported nearly 200,000 gross domestic jobs in 2013, each earning an average annual salary of $60,000, with RE expenditures driving over $20 billion in gross GDP."
- Far from increasing utility bills, LBNL found that "national consumer savings resulting from wholesale price reductions are estimated to range from $0.0 to $1.2 billion."
- Last but not least, increased clean energy due to RPS reduced natural gas demand, "lowered gas prices by $0.05 to $0.14/MMBtu, and saved consumers in 2013 "from $1.3 billion to $3.7 billion."
In sum, requiring utilities to switch from dirty to clean energy doesn't just benefit the environment and people's health, but also the economy in a major way. Downsides to more clean energy? LBNL doesn't appear to have found any.