Renewable portfolio standards (RPS) obligate retail sellers of electricity to include in their energy resource portfolios certain minimum amounts of electricity from qualifying renewable energy sources. To help you understand the basics of RPS programs, which effectively reduce the amount of greenhouse gases that otherwise would be released into the air, LexisNexis has published a new pamphlet, entitled "Renewable Portfolio Standards." Along with a description of renewable power sources, the pamphlet discusses environmental and economic issues relating to RPS, current state RPS programs, attempts to establish a federal RPS, and renewable energy credits. Also included is a bibliography of relevant reports and articles and a directory of useful internet sources. A free excerpt from the first section of the pamphlet is attached as a download and also provided below.
§ 1.01 Introduction to Renewable Portfolio Standards
 What Is a Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS)?
A renewable portfolio standard (RPS), also known as a renewable electricity standard (RES), is a legislative or regulatory policy obligating retail sellers of electricity, such as electric utilities, to include in their energy resource portfolios certain minimum amounts of electricity from qualifying renewable energy sources. Energy resource portfolios are the collection of electricity generation resources from which the retailer obtains and sells electric power. Common renewable energy sources include hydropower, wind, biomass, solar, and geothermal sources. An RPS may be established based on a percentage of total electric generation or a percentage of sales, and may be satisfied by the retail seller's (1) owning renewable energy facilities, producing renewable power, and selling it in the retail seller's service territory; (2) purchasing and reselling renewable electricity from other generators of renewable power; or (3) purchasing renewable energy credits (RECs) (also known as renewable energy certificates) demonstrating that a third party has generated the required amount of renewable energy.1 RECs are similar to "offsets" purchased in a cap and trade system. Some RPS programs allow for the payment of an alternative compliance payment or tax in place of obtaining renewable electricity or purchasing RECs
There currently is no federal RPS, although certain energy legislative proposals pending in Congress would, if enacted, establish some type of uniform federal standard applicable to electric retail suppliers. But as of February 2010, mandatory RPS requirements have been set by 30 states and the District of Columbia. These state programs bear many similarities, but also differ from one another in terms of renewable percentage requirements, timeframes by which renewable energy percentages must be attained, qualifying types of energy sources, and the opportunity for REC trading. In addition, five states have adopted voluntary RPS "goals" instead of "requirements."2 Whether mandatory or voluntary, each state program addresses state-specific concerns (e.g., economic growth, development of new technological sectors, diversity of energy supply, and environmental concerns), available local resources, and production capacity.
Soon you will be able to purchase the complete pamphlet through this link. This handy pamphlet is one of the many offerings in the new LexisNexis Global Climate Change Special Pamphlet Series.
1See Ryan Wiser and Galen Barbose, Renewable Portfolio Standards in the United States, A Status Report with Data Through 2007 (Apr. 2008), available at http://eetd.lbl.gov/ea/ems/reports/lbnl-154e.pdf; R. Wiser, K. Porter, and R. Grace, Evaluating Experience with Renewables Portfolio Standards in the United States (Mar. 2004), available at http://eetd.lbl.gov/ea/EMS/reports/54439.pdf.
2 See Interstate Renewable Energy Council, Renewable Portfolio Standards, September 2009, available at http://www.dsireusa.org.