Renewable portfolio standards have "sizable" impacts on U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, water use, job creation and the economy, two national laboratories say in a report released today.
The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and National Renewable Energy Laboratory conclude that renewable portfolio standards in 29 states and the District of Columbia resulted in $2.2 billion in benefits from reduced greenhouse gas emissions, assuming a "midrange" scenario and a central value for the social cost of carbon.
The labs weighed new renewable generation in 2013, as that was the last year for which full data were available. RPS-linked reductions in air pollution resulted in $5.2 billion in health and economic benefits that year, particularly in the coal-rich eastern United States.
There also was a benefit to water-stressed regions, as RPSes reduced water withdrawals from fossil-fuel-fired plants by about 830 billion gallons nationwide, the report says. There was a wide variation regionally because of differences in fuel types used in power plants.
The results are "informative for RPS debates that may be happening in the future," said Jenny Heeter, a senior energy analyst at NREL and one of the co-authors of the report. She noted in an interview that many of the nation’s existing renewable standards are set to expire by the end of the decade.
The report differentiates between "benefits" associated with renewable standards — such as greenhouse gas reductions — and "impacts" on jobs, wholesale electricity prices and natural gas prices...
To see the full report, click here.