What are renewable electricity standards?
A renewable electricity standard, also sometimes called a renewable portfolio standard, requires electric service providers to gradually increase the amount of renewable energy resources—such as wind, solar, bioenergy, and geothermal—in their electricity supplies, until they reach a specified target by a specified date.
The renewable electricity standard is a market-based policy that creates competition among renewable generators, providing the greatest amount of clean power for the lowest price and creating an ongoing incentive to drive costs down. The steady, predictable, and long-term clean energy market supported by a renewable electricity standard enables developers to obtain lower-cost financing and achieve economies of scale and production that make renewable energy technologies more competitive.
U.S. citizens already benefit from similar standards in other sectors of the economy. Energy efficiency standards for buildings and appliances, for example, are common at the state and federal level. And the airline, automobile, food, and pharmaceutical industries must follow standards that ensure public safety, economic stability, and environmental protection. These standards help society achieve goals and meet needs—such as clean, safe, sustainable, and affordable energy—that might otherwise go unattained.
Renewable electricity standards have emerged as an effective and popular tool in the United States and elsewhere. Twenty-five states plus Washington, DC, have adopted standards, the U.S. Senate has voiced its support for a national standard three times since 2002, and the U.S. House of Representatives passed a national standard in August. Other countries such as Australia, China, Italy, Japan, Pakistan, Sweden, and the United Kingdom, as well as several provinces in Canada, have all adopted renewable electricity standards.
To learn more about the economic, environmental, and other benefits of renewable electricity standards and the need for a federal standard, visit the Renewable Energy Solutions section of the UCS website.