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.

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Photo credit: david.nikonvscanon


Ruth R.
Ruth R6 years ago

Wonderful !

Brian Hamilton
Brian Hamilton6 years ago


Brian Hamilton
Brian Hamilton6 years ago

Make a step in the right direction and get this ball rolling for other states and countries

Danuta W.
Danuta W6 years ago

Thank you for the good article

Past Member
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Bernadette P.
Berny p6 years ago

"Solar, wind, biofuel, hydropower, hydrothermal, algae, wave, tidal, biomass, hydrogen ... let's do them all!"

SO more....LESS PEOPLE would be a GREAT leap forward in this fight!

Dawid P.
Dawid P6 years ago

we will see in future what can be achieved

Nicole G.
Nicole Gorman6 years ago

As a current Californian never thought I'd see something that Schwarzenegger and Brown agree on. Maybe that will help others realize just how important this issue is!!!!

Dave C.
David C6 years ago

it its in the ground lets leave it there instead of using it to pollute the air/water.... if its in the air lets figure out how to harvest it safely so we can keep our world clean and cool for the future....

Ernie Miller
william Miller6 years ago

sounds like a good start when will the rest of the country fallow?