The Case for a Federal Renewable Energy Standard
“Shifting to cleaner electricity generation is an affordable and effective way to reduce carbon emissions,” the Center for American Progress (CAP) declares in a recent blog post. Shifting to renewable energy can be accelerated by some type of a renewable energy standard (RES). The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) recently released a report on establishing a federal RES or CES.
The report differentiates between a RES and a CES by describing a RES as replacing fossil fuel generated power with renewable sources, and describes a CES as including not only renewable sources but also nuclear power, and carbon capture and storage.
Only about 10 percent of U.S. power is from renewable sources, according to the report. Fossil fuels generate most of the power: 45 percent is from coal, 24 from natural gas and 19 percent from nuclear power. However, 31 states have an RES or CES.
One of the states with an RES is California, which first established its Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) Program in 2002, with the goal of increasing the state’s renewable energy generation to 20 percent by 2017. In 2006, legislation passed that moved the RPS target up to 2010. Before the bill passed, publicly owned utilities set their own RPS goals in anticipation of its passage.
In 2008, then-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed an executive order that required 33 percent of the state’s power to come from renewables by 2020. In 2011, Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill that codified the 33 percent RPS.
The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) calls California’s RPS the “most aggressive renewable energy requirement in the country and positions California as a leader in clean energy investments.” The UCS estimates that with the RPS, California will generate over a quarter of the renewable energy generated in the country in 2020.
There is a saying: “As California goes, so goes the nation.” A federal RES standard similar to California’s RPS program would definitely help the nation switch to renewable energy.
Photo credit: david.nikonvscanon