Some states tweaked renewables definition, profile in 2011

No states were added to the list of those requiring utilities to procure a certain pencentage of electricity from renewable sources in 2011, but the clean power market could not be described as standing still.

That’s because a significant number of existing state renewable portfolio standards (RPS) programs beefed up, according to the Energy Information Administration’s (EIA’s) Annual Energy Outlook 2012 (AEO2012).

RPS programs exist in 30 states and the District of Columbia. In 2011 the number of states remained constant, but higher percentages were codified, or states allowed more flexible definitions of what could be called renewable. By 2025, these targets account for about 10% of U.S. sales.

California, Hawaii have some of the greenest goals

Perhaps the biggest change was the enactment of the California Renewable Energy Resources Act, which codified an existing  executive order that mandates Golden State utilities to reach 33% renewable generation by 2020. Hawaii has the largest requirement 40%, but the greatest impact on clean energy nationally.

In Connecticut, a solar-specific component to the existing RPS target was added, which requires that renewables should account for 27% of sales by 2020. The State’s Clean Energy Finance and Investment Authority is tasked with creating an investment program that will result in the procurement of 30 MW of residential solar installations that can be counted toward the general RPS requirement.

Delaware expanded its list of permitted sources with the inclusion of fuel cells under certain conditions. Fuel cell projects that can be fueled by renewable sources and that are owned or operated by qualified providers can apply to earn renewable energy credits and, on a limited basis, solar renewable energy credits.

Illinois added a distributed generation requirement that 1% of the renewable target (25 % of sales from renewable sources by 2025 for large utilities) be fulfilled by distributed generation by mid-2015, with incremental targets beginning to take effect in 2013.

Maryland allowed more flexibility for meeting its 20% target for 2022 by adding waste-to-energy facilities that were scheduled to sunset in 2022. Solar hot water systems can be qualified for its 2% carve-out.

North Carolina allows reductions in electricity demand to qualify toward meeting the existing renewable energy and energy efficiency portfolio standard. The legislation defines electricity demand reduction as a “measureable reduction in the electricity demand of a retail electric customer that is voluntary, under the real-time control of both the electric power supplier and the retail electric customer, and measured in real time, using two-way communications devices that communicate on the basis of standards.”

In the AEO2012 Reference case, states generally are assumed to meet their ultimate RPS targets. Compliance costs in each region are tracked, and the projection for total renewable generation is checked for consistency with any State-level cost-control provisions, such as caps on renewable credit prices, limits on state compliance funding, or impacts on consumer electricity prices.

In the EIA Reference case, the natural gas share of electric power generation increases from 24% in 2010 to 28% in 2035, while the renewables share grows from 10% to 15%. EIA accounts for the increasing percentages of renewables already on the books, which typically rise on a sliding scale. Most states have set compliance targets for 2020 or 2025.

EIA said the projections do not include policies with either voluntary goals or targets that can be substantially satisfied with nonrenewable resources. In addition, the model is not able to treat fuel-specific provisions — such as those for solar and offshore wind energy — as distinct targets.