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Benefits of Renewable Portfolio Standards Outweigh Costs, Report Finds

Originally published on Sustainnovate.
By Henry Lindon

The economic benefits of state renewable portfolio standards greatly outweigh the costs, according to a new report. There are now 29 US states that have adopted renewable portfolio standards targets, and they are benefiting as a result.

As it stands currently, state renewable portfolio standards are an important driver of renewable energy generation growth in the US — so the new findings are very worth taking note of, especially as the argument used by most critics of the standards is that the raise electricity costs.

The new report — A Retrospective Analysis of the Benefits and Impacts of US Renewable Portfolio Standards — stated that the economic benefits of renewable portfolio standards with regard to reduced greenhouse gas emissions averaged $2.2 billion, and the economic benefits accompanying the reduction of other air pollution averaged $5.2 billion, in 2013.

Greentech Media provides some more info:

These averages are taken from wider-range estimates of the value of mitigating the negative effects of climate change for GHG reductions, as well as reducing mortality from air pollution. These figures are much higher than the roughly $1 billion in annual compliance costs (that is, higher electricity prices) that have come about as a result of state RPS mandates between the years 2010 and 2013.

Those figures come from a previous study from the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, which also co-authored Wednesday’s report. The two reports use different methodologies, which makes a direct comparison difficult, said Ryan Wiser, LBNL analyst and report co-author, in an interview. Specifically, the previous study relied on state-by-state measures of RPS compliance costs, which vary widely in their sophistication and methods, while the new report used a common methodology across all 29 states (plus the District of Columbia) that have RPS mandates in place. Still, the new report does help provide an important counterweight to arguments that state RPS targets are driving up electricity costs to unacceptable levels, he said.

“Most people and most organizations that have come out in opposition to RPS programs have focused on the cost angle,” continued Wiser. “We did this work previously that compiled all these RPS state cost analyses, while recognizing that the states developed their RPS programs not to deliver short-term savings, but to deliver long-term benefits. This more recent work helps us understand what we are getting for these costs, and (whether) those benefits seem like they’re in excess of those costs.”

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