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A comprehensive resource on state-level renewable electricity standard policy

About the toolkit  |  What are renewable electricity standards?  |  Why is renewable energy important?  |  How are the states doing?

How are the states doing?

State-level commitments to renewable energy vary greatly across the country. Some states—such as California and Maine—have historically been and continue to be leaders in the use of renewable energy technologies. Many other states, including (but not limited to) Colorado, Iowa, Minnesota, New York, and Texas have made great strides in recent years, significantly increasing their use of wind, bioenergy, and solar technologies.

Yet, many other states continue to rely heavily on fossil fuels for power, and have made no significant commitments to develop renewable energy. As a whole, the United States currently gets about 2.5 percent of its power from non-hydroelectric renewable energy sources.

The renewable electricity standard is one policy tool that the states are using to help increase the use of renewable energy technologies. While most standards have been enacted too recently to fully evaluate their effectiveness, a number of studies have found that state-level renewable standards are and will continue to be the primary driver of new renewable energy generation in the United States. In fact, half of the total wind development installed between 2001 and 2006 has resulted from state standards.1

In Minnesota, for example, Xcel Energy has acquired more than 650 megawatts (MW) of wind and bioenergy as a result of its requirement. Wisconsin utilities had secured enough renewable resources to meet their targets through 2011 before the state raised the targets in early 2006, and Iowa has met and exceeded its relatively low renewable energy requirement.

The most successful renewable standard so far may belong to Texas, where nearly 4,000 MW of renewable energy capacity have been installed since the requirement was put in place in 1999. The original Texas standard required the installation of 2,000 MW of new renewable electricity generating capacity by 2009. However, as a result of the standard's success, the legislature in August 2005 increased the new capacity requirement to 5,000 MW by 2015. Many other states—including Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin—have also revisited and increased or accelerated their standards.

However, not every state renewable electricity standard is working effectively. For example, in states where utilities divested generation and credit-worthy power marketers have not emerged (as in Massachusetts and other northeast states), or where utilities have had credit problems (as in Nevada), new renewable energy projects are experiencing difficulties in obtaining contracts and financing. These states are addressing the issues by creating new supplemental mechanisms, such as using state agencies to provide financing or credit price guarantees.

1 Wiser, R. "Renewable Portfolio Standards: An Introduction to State Experience." Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL). NCSL Clean Energy and Air Quality Working Group, May 3, 2007.

Additional resources
Many state renewable electricity standards require the completion of an annual compliance report that is available to the public. To view which states require compliance reports, and to find links to currently available reports, search the "Reports" category under "Administration and Reporting" in this toolkit's database.

To learn more about state-level activities, visit the Renewable Energy Solutions section of the UCS website.

To learn about the current status of state-level energy use, including renewable energy, visit the State Energy Profiles and Renewable Energy Annual pages of the U.S. Energy Information Administration's website.

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