Marten Law: Renewable Energy Standards--California and Congress Moving in Different Directions

Marten Law: Renewable Energy Standards--California and Congress Moving in Different Directions

Dustin Till   By Dustin Till, Associate, Marten Law Group PLLC

“California and Congress seem to be headed in opposite directions on climate policy this year. California has expanded its renewable portfolio standard (RPS), meaning public and private utilities must now acquire up to a third of their energy from renewable energy sources,” writes Dustin Till. “Congress, meanwhile, has been backing away from climate change regulation, including a federal clean energy standard (CES) that, until recently, was considered relatively non-controversial.”

“Alternative energy standards—variously called CESs and RPSs —are requirements that utilities acquire a certain percentage of the electricity from renewable resources. These type of regulations define the types of power generation that qualify as ‘renewable’ or ‘clean,’ and generally allow regulated utilities to purchase electricity from any qualifying renewable resource based on the characteristics the utility values most (e.g., price, quantity, duration, intermittency, reliability, etc.). Many jurisdictions also allow regulated utilities to trade renewable energy certificates (RECs) (i.e., a credit issued for each megawatt [MW] of renewable energy generated) to further increase compliance flexibility,” explains the author. “Some jurisdictions such as California allow compliance for a portion of the RPS requirements through the use of tradable RECs (TRECs), which are RECS that can be traded separate and apart from the energy associated with their creation. TRECs allow utilities in one state to take credit for renewable energy developed in another state without having to take delivery of the physical power.”

“At least 30 states have adopted mandatory RPSs, and another seven states have adopted non-mandatory RPS goals. The types of generating technologies that qualify as ‘renewable’ vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. For example, most states classify wind, solar, landfill gas, biofuels and biomass as ‘renewable’ sources, while other states have broader standards that classify advanced nuclear and carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) as ‘clean.’ While most RPSs are neutral as to which qualifying resource is used for compliance, some states have enacted ‘carve outs’ that require that a certain percentage of the RPS is met via specific technologies, or ‘multipliers’ that incentivize particular technologies by awarding more than one REC per MW purchased,” Till reports. “The Scoping Plan for implementing the greenhouse gas emission reductions called for in California's greenhouse gas legislation (Assembly Bill 32) calls for a 33% mix of renewable resources. Given the size of California's energy market, the structure of its RPS program has consequences for participants in renewable energy markets throughout the western U.S.”

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As a lawyer with the Marten Law Group, Dustin Till practices environmental and land use litigation with a special focus on climate change issues, permitting, and environmental review in the Pacific Northwest. Dustin represents clients in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Alaska on a broad range of environmental matters, including permitting and energy infrastructure siting. Dustin shares his climate change expertise on behalf of Marten Law Group writing ongoing articles for Lexis Nexis’ Environmental Law and Climate Change Center. Dustin has appeared before the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, federal district court and the Washington State Court of Appeals.

 Renewable Energy - Wind and Solar

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