Renewables are greenest when displacing coal, not gas.
Constantine Gonatas is a principal with the consultancy CPG Advisors.
With the abandonment of a nationwide energy policy by the previous Congress, states continue leading carbon mitigation efforts. Indeed, existing state policies and renewable portfolio standards (RPS) are already having a significant impact on the U.S. generation portfolio. FERC now proposes to weigh state policy as a consideration in transmission filings. Should state policies guide federal action? Will they suffice to reduce carbon emissions?
The 30+ states with renewable energy or carbon regulations cover a wide range of policies. All have some degree of RPS, for which the dominant portion may be met only by physical delivery of power in state. Treatment of low-emission resources varies by state and technology. Policy makers in many states believe mature energy sources (such as hydroelectric) should not receive market preferences, but that only technologies not yet competitive should receive incentives. States also use incentives to drive local industrial policy, and hopefully, in-state job creation. They often select the particular technologies they believe will be ultimately successful in the marketplace. Furthermore, many states have preferences for local generation to advantage in-state industry.