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Renewable Portfolio Standards

State-level renewable portfolio standards (RPSs) aim to encourage renewable energy and discourage greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the electric power sector in the United States. Do they work? Some prominent government agencies and advocacy groups assert that U.S. renewables growth has been largely due to RPSs. That seems unlikely, given that in most regions, renewables exceed RPS requirements. But it is not an easy question to answer, thanks to interstate trading and the possibility that states with abundant renewable resources might set the most ambitious RPS goals. We combine the best features of four recent academic studies, using ordinary least-squares and instrumental variables approaches. In some specifications, RPSs do appear to reduce the use of natural gas to generate electricity and decrease GHG emissions, while boosting the use of wind and solar power. But the effects are small—consistent with the academic findings and in contrast to the public claims and policy goals.

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Keywords: Solar and wind energy, Fossil fuels, Renewable energy credits

DOI: 10.5547/01956574.44.4.rfel

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Published in Volume 44, Number 5 of the bi-monthly journal of the IAEE's Energy Economics Education Foundation.


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