“If you don’t know where you’re going, you’re not likely to wind up there,” observed Forrest Gump. That sort of homespun wisdom is the reason why governments come up with policies like a renewable portfolio standard — so people and businesses have a goal they can work towards. A renewable portfolio standard tells utility companies how much of their electricity should come from renewables by certain dates.
Many states in the US have renewable portfolio standards. California, not surprisingly, has the highest goal — 50% renewables by 2030. Some have none at all. See the National Conference of State Legislatures web page for specific information about each state. Naturally, the states that have no RPS are places where Trump supporters live, people who believe deep in the hearts that governments have no business telling industries what they should or should not do, no matter how much harm their activities may cause others.
In Massachusetts, the current RPS is 13% — not the worst in the nation but far behind many other states. The standard goes up by 1% a year, but a new law passed this week by the legislature would increase the standard by 2% a year for 10 years beginning January 1, 2020. On January 1, 2030, the yearly increase would fall back to 1% a year unless the legislature further amends the law in the meantime. That means by 2030, the RPS in Massachusetts will be about 35% — far behind California and several other states that have adopted policies calling for 50% renewables by that date.
Environmental groups like the Sierra Club applaud raising the standard but are disappointed the bill did not remove the current limits on net metering imposed by state law. A Senate version of the bill would have removed those limitations but the provision was not included in the measure that passed the Massachusetts House of Representatives and so was not included in the legislation that will be forwarded to the governor for approval.
“With this bill, the Massachusetts Legislature took baby steps when what is needed are giant strides,” Emily Norton, the director of the Massachusetts chapter of the Sierra Club, told the Boston Globe. Senator Michael Barrett sees it differently. “It’s a strong bill,” he said. “I think a year and a half ago when we started this (legislative) session, the expectation was that you would not see an energy bill at all. We’ve come a long way from there.”
Barrett is the principal proponent of legislation that would impose a tax on carbon emissions within the Bay State. Like a true politician, he is a “half a loaf is better than none” kind of guy who takes what he can get given current political realities and keeps waiting for the future to catch up with his vision.
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