The federally-funded Lawrence Berkeley National Lab (part of the consortium of national laboratories) has recently come out with a report on the status of Renewables Portfolio Standards around the country. I reported on the growing popularity of these programs, in which states mandate that all electric utilities get a certain percentage of their electricity from renewable sources. Kentucky isn’t implementing one. But 29 states now have them, including Illinois, which is requiring 25% of its energy portfolio to be from renewable sources (like wind, solar, and hydro) by the year 2025.

Some highlights from the report:

  • Most RPS programs are fairly new, and vary by state.
  • If utilities and states comply with their targets by 2025, they’ll add more than 60 gigawatts of additional renewables capacity. That’s enough to power more than 60 million homes.
  • Electricity rates in states with RPS programs are not significantly higher –about 1%.
  • Some states let utilities help meet their target with energy efficiency programs, as well as through buying renewable energy from other utilities.
  • Some states are struggling to achieve their self-imposed targets because the entire nation’s transmission capacity is pretty constrained. For example, it might be attractive to want to buy solar power from the southwest, but we might not be able to get it to Kentucky the way our infrastructure stands now.
  • The U.S. House passed a federal RPS bill in 2007, but the Senate put the kibosh on it.

Not every state has a robust variety of renewable sources.  Western states may have plenty of sun and wind, and even plenty of hydro.  But Kentucky, for example, doesn’t have those luxuries in abundance.  We do have biomass – which is organic material like wood chips, corn cobs, or even animal waste that can be turned into fuel.  Given the barriers, and the opportunities, should Kentucky have an RPS? Should the country?