As green mandates tighten, utilities scramble to comply.
William Atkinson is a freelance journalist based in Carterville, Ill.
Renewable portfolio standards (RPS) have become the norm rather than the exception in the United States.
By the end of 2007, 46 percent of nationwide retail electricity sales were covered by mandatory state RPS requirements, according to research conducted by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.1 In other words, renewable generation under a state RPS mandate served some portion of 46 percent of retail power sold last year.
As of mid-2008, 26 states and the District of Columbia enacted mandatory RPS policies. Four additional states have non-binding goals. While these standards have posed little problem for many utilities, they are causing headaches for some. And as RPS requirements become more ambitious—and the most cost-effective project opportunities get developed—those headaches will grow into migraines.
“Some utilities have struggled to meet requirements,” says Ryan H. Wiser, a scientist in Lawrence Berkeley’s environmental energy technologies division. “Utilities in Nevada, for example, have signed a large number of renewable energy contracts, but many of the projects that have been contracted for have failed to meet their deadlines. Some have even been cancelled.”