DOE study quantifies benefits of state RPS programs

By Erin Voegele | January 08, 2016

Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory and Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory have released a study estimating value of emissions reductions associated with state renewable portfolio standard (RPS) policies operating in 2013. The study determined that state RPS programs resulted in $2.2 billion in benefits from reduced greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, along with $5.2 billion in benefits from reductions in other air pollution.

In addition, national water withdrawals and water consumption by fossil-fuel plants were reduced by 830 billion gallons and 27 billion gallons in 2013, respectively. RPS policies also supported 200,000 renewable energy-related jobs.

"This work is intended to inform ongoing policy discussions by helping states evaluate RPS programs," Berkeley Lab's Ryan Wiser, one of the report authors, said.

"Our goal was to estimate the magnitude of RPS benefits and impacts at a national-level, using established, consistent methodologies, while recognizing that states could perform their own more-detailed assessments," NREL's Jenny Heeter, one of the report authors, said.

The report notes that RPS-related renewable capacity additions over the 2013-’14 period averaged nearly 5,600 MW per year. Biomass accounted for an estimated 220 MW of that volume, with landfill gas accounting for approximately 85 MW.

Biomass projects were found to be responsible for approximately 8,300 construction jobs and 3,300 operations and maintenance jobs. Landfill gas projects were estimated to create 2,200 construction jobs and 6,600 operations and maintenance jobs.

The study was a follow-up and complement to an earlier study by the two labs that focused on the costs of state RPS programs to date that noted the need for a full understanding of the potential benefits, impacts, and costs of RPS programs. A full copy of the report, titled A Retrospective Analysis of the Benefits and Impacts of U.S. Renewable Portfolio Standards,” is available on the NREL website