State-level Renewable Energy Regulations

by Emily Audet

States have often passed environmental regulations that extend past and are more stringent than federal regulations. With the current administration and Congress appearing to not prioritize sustainability nor clean energy regulations and legislation, pushes at state-level policy could be a viable political strategy for those concerned with advancing clean energy. As of January 2017, 29 states and Washington, D.C. have passed a renewable portfolio standard (RPS), a type of regulation that bolsters use and production of renewable energy []. State-level RPSs significantly impact the nation’s energy landscape—RPSs caused the creation of the majority of all renewable energy projects established from 2000 to 2017, and if states fully implement existing RPSs, a projected 40% of the energy for the whole country will come from renewable sources by 2050.

CleanTechnica published an article from a guest contributor on January 30, 2017 praising California, Iowa, Hawaii, New York, Minnesota, and Oregon for their strong clean energy policies []. The policies highlighted included RPSs, carbon emission reductions, investments into clean energy projects, and the phasing out of coal-fired power plants.

The article highlighted Hawaii’s, Oregon’s, and Minnesota’s use of policy to transfer to renewable energy. Hawaii plans to use entirely renewable energy by 2045 and has mid-term goals established to help the state reach this ambitious, long-term goal. The Oregon government created a policy requiring utilities to transfer to 50% renewable energy by 2040. Minnesota’s use of renewable energy has increased from 5% in 2005 to 21% of the state’s power in 2015. The article also focused on California’s and New York City’s efforts to lower carbon emissions, as both bodies established regulations to cut carbon emissions by 40% by 2030.

Many of the states’ legislation focuses on decreasing coal-fired energy. Oregon is the first state in the U.S. to create regulations with the aim to phase out all coal energy. Oregon plans to have moved completely away from coal-fired electricity by 2030. While enacted later, New York’s regulations are more intensive, as the state intends to close all coal-based power plants by 2020. Coal remains a large part of Iowa’s energy supply; however, in 2016, the state passed the development of the largest wind energy project in the country’s history.

A 2016 report from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory asserts that switching to renewable energy will save states in the long-run []. The report is based on a study that ran a cost-benefit analysis of both existing RPSs and projected more expansive RPSs into 2050. Existing RPSs will cost states about $31 billion collectively by 2050; however, the study claims that these costs will be outweighed by the monetary gains of the environmental and health benefits spurred by decreased greenhouse gas emissions, pollutants, and water usage under existing RPSs. This study adds support to claims that RPS policies for states are economically, as well as environmentally, preferable.



“6 States Leading The Way In Clean Energy & Climate Legislation.” CleanTechnica. N.p., 30 Jan. 2017. Web. 31 Jan. 2017.

Ferris, David. “Report: Benefits of State Renewable Energy Policies Far Outweigh Costs.” Midwest Energy News. N.p., 2017. Web. 31 Jan. 2017.

Mai, Trieu, Ryan Wiser, Galen Barbose, Lori Bird, Jenny Heeter, David Keyser, Venkat Krishnan, Jordan Macknick, and Dev Millstein. 2016. A Prospective Analysis of the Costs, Benefits, and Impacts of U.S. Renewable Portfolio Standards. NREL/TP-6A20-67455/LBNL- 1006962. Golden, CO and Berkeley, CA: National Renewable Energy Laboratory and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.






Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s