Next steps for renewable energy standards
Now that we know renewable energy standards are an affordable, effective way to bring the benefits of clean energy to consumers, we should broaden their reach. There are two ways to do this: create a federal standard and strengthen state standards.
At the federal level Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) introduced a bill last month called the Clean Energy Standard Act of 2012. This national standard would include all low-carbon electricity sources—including nuclear and natural gas—in addition to renewables. While this is different from many state standards, Department of Energy analysis shows that this proposed standard would lead to new wind, solar, and biomass power, just like the state standards.
Some states that have renewable energy standards have found meeting the standards easier than expected and have amended them to include more ambitious targets. California, for example, now has a target of 33 percent renewables by 2020. Colorado’s standard now has a target of 30 percent by 2020. Other states can follow their lead and increase targets to reap more benefits of renewable energy.
Consumers in 29 states are seeing the benefits of renewable energy today thanks to renewable energy standards. They have access to cleaner air, reliable power, and growing economies—all of which are benefits of a simple, commonsense policy.
Despite these benefits, however, some right-wing commentators and fossil-fuel advocates have launched an effort to discredit these standards. In particular, they claim that renewable energy standards are hurting consumers by driving up rates. While these claims are certainly scary, there simply is no evidence that they’re accurate. In fact, the evidence suggests that renewable energy is affordable.
Knowing this, we should all have access to these new energy resources. And since it is unlikely that every state will adopt a renewable energy standard in the near future, the only way to provide this access is through a similar federal policy. By passing a federal renewable energy standard, or a clean energy standard that would also encourage renewables growth, Congress can put our country on a safer, cleaner, more reliable, and more affordable path to the future.
The table below lists every state with a renewable energy standard. Column 1 is the annual rate of change in that state’s average residential electricity rate from 1990 until the year before the standard went into effect, and Column 2 is the average rate for all states without these standards over the same years. Columns 3 and 4 are the same rates, only starting in the year the standard went into effect through 2010. Columns 5 and 6 show how that state’s changing rates compared to the states without renewable energy standards for each time period (before and after the standard went into effect).
Finally, Column 7 shows how the state’s electricity rates were changing before and after the renewable electricity standard, compared to the national average. In Maine, for example, rates were going up 3.42 percent faster than states without renewable energy standards before 2000, when the state’s standard went into effect. Since then, though, Maine’s rates have increased 0.82 percent slower than states without these standards.