Renewable Electricity Standards Deliver Economic Benefits (2013)

The development of renewable energy resources supports local economies, creates jobs, and moves America toward a cleaner, more reliable energy future
May 2013

A renewable electricity standard (RES) requires electric utilities to gradually increase the amount of renewable energy in their power supplies.

Currently 29 states and the District of Columbia have adopted an RES — for sources such as wind, solar, geothermal, and biopower — to help create reliable markets for renewable energy and reduce the use of polluting fossil fuels.

A review of RES policies shows that utilities are successfully meeting their renewable energy requirements with little or no additional cost to consumers, while supporting rapidly growing renewable energy industries that provide substantial economic benefits.

Renewable energy provides a range of economic benefits

  • The renewable energy industry supports American jobs. More than 119,000 people worked in solar-related industries in 2012, while wind energy development employed 75,000 full-time workers across the U.S., including 30,000 jobs at manufacturing facilities throughout the country.
  • Renewable energy devopment promotes investments in the U.S. economy. In 2012, wind power made up 42 percent of all new U.S. electric capacity additions, representing a $25 billion investment in the U.S. economy.
  • Renewable energy development outperforms fossil fuels in two important ways when it comes to driving job growth: 1)  Renewable energy development is relatively labor intensive, so it creates more jobs per dollar invested than fossil fuel resources and 2) Installing renewable energy facilities uses primarily local workers, so investement dollars are kept in local communities.
  • Local landowners benefit from renewable energy development. When wind turbines are installed on privately owned land, the land owners typically receive payments in the form of lease, royalty, or right-of-way payments. These payments can be an important source of income for rural families.
  • Renewble energy projects pay property and income taxes that help support states and local communities. For example, wind projects in Iowa, which now generates more than 20 percent of its electricity with wind, provided more than $19.5 million in annual property tax payments to state and local governments in 2011.

Renewable energy is a good deal for consumers

  • States with RES policies achieved more than 95 percent compliance with renewable energy requirements through 2010, with little to no impact on electricity rates in almost every state.
  • A 2009 - 2010 evaluation of 14 states with RES policies estimated that all but one of the states experienced cost impacts of about 1.6 percent or less.
  • Increasing renewable energy also helps stabilize electricity rates and provide long-tem savings. Once a wind or solar facility is installed, the "fuel" is free. Fossil fuels, on the other hand, are subject to potentially volatile prices that can lead to significant fluctuations in electricity rates.

Renewable energy — and its economic benefits — can be increased by adopting strong policies and making smart investments in our electricity system

Together with smart complementary policies, state RES policies can help maintain the nation's momentum toward a clean and prosperous clean energy economy. To continue the rapid growth of renewable energy, UCS offers the following recommendations:

  • Invest in new transmssion capacity for renewable energy. Federal, regional, and state authorities should identify transmission projects that provide the greatest economic benefits in delivering renewable electricity from where it can be most effectively generated to where it is most needed.
  • Develop resonsible and consistent siting regulations for renewable energy projects. State and local governments should coordinate their plans to develop harmonious, transparent, and science-based siting regulations for renewable energy projects.
  • Extend tax advantages and establish other financial benefits for renewable energy. Congress should extend federal tax incentives for wind and other renewable resources, especially the production tax credit, by at least four years.