Recharging U.S. Energy Policy: Advocating for a National Renewable Portfolio Standard

By Lunt, Robin J. | UCLA Journal of Environmental Law & Policy, Winter 2006 | Go to article overview

Recharging U.S. Energy Policy: Advocating for a National Renewable Portfolio Standard


Lunt, Robin J., UCLA Journal of Environmental Law & Policy


ABSTRACT

The global economy depends on uninterrupted electricity, but electricity generators pollute more than any other industry. The United States has regulated electricity almost from its beginning. Yet, despite repeated proposals, including the Energy Policy Act of 2005, Congress has yet to pass a renewable portfolio standard (RPS). Renewable portfolio standards require an electricity market to include a minimum percentage of electricity generated from renewable sources such as solar, wind, biomass, and geothermal sources. RPS policies use market-trading mechanisms to ensure that the required renewable energy is generated in the most efficient manner possible.

Twenty-six U.S. states, Australia, and the European Union (E.U.) have implemented renewable portfolio standards or similar laws. These policies aim to reduce reliance on fossil fuels, decrease pollutants and greenhouse gas emissions, and foster technological innovation and economic growth. An analysis of these policies suggests how the United States might shape a national renewable policy.

This paper intends to provide an overview of the electricity landscape in the United States and advocates for a national RPS. The paper explores the history and sources of electricity. It then explains renewable portfolio standards, with an in-depth look into renewable energy credit trading programs, a key policy mechanism that maximizes efficiency in meeting the increased demand for renewable energy generation. Finally, the paper explores lessons that the United States can learn from the renewable policies in Texas, Australia, and the E.U.

   I. INTRODUCTION
  II. SOURCES OF ELECTRICITY
 III. HISTORY OF ELECTRICITY AND ITS REGULATION IN
      THE U.S.
  IV. RENEWABLE PORTFOLIO STANDARDS: AN
      OVERVIEW
      A. Elements of a Renewable Portfolio Standard
      B. Renewable Energy Credits: A Key Market
         Trading Mechanism for RPSs
      C. The Lack of a National RPS
   V. RPSS AT THE STATE LEVEL AND TEXAS'S SUCCESS
  VI. WHAT THE U.S. CAN LEARN FROM AUSTRALIA AND
      THE EUROPEAN UNION
      A. Australia's Commitment to Renewable Energy
      B. The European Union's Harmonized Approach
         within its Member States
 VII. SENATE RPS PROPOSAL FOR THE ENERGY POLICY
      ACT OF 2005
      A. Analysis of the RPS Amendment
VIII. THE UNITED STATES NEEDS A NATIONAL RPS
      A. Why the U.S. Needs a National Renewable
         Policy
      B. Addressing Arguments against a National
         RPS
      C. Lessons from the States and Nations Who Have
         Implemented Renewable Policies
      D. Implementing These Lessons to Promote
         Renewable Energy Throughout the United
         States
      E. Weaknesses of a Federal Policy that Requires
         Each State to Implement an RPS
      F. One Direct National RPS Applicable to All
         Electricity Generators
         1. The S[O.sub.2] Trading Program's Success Argues
            for a National RPS
         2. Advantages of a National RPS
         3. Potential Disadvantages of a National
            RPS
         4. What Should the National RPS Contain?
  IX. CONCLUSION

I.

INTRODUCTION

The global boom in renewable energy has been compared to the industrial revolution in its promise to transform the globe. (1) In the face of international and statewide policies to promote renewable energy, the United States has failed to adopt a renewable portfolio standard, a powerful policy tool that requires a certain amount of electricity to come from renewable sources. Considering how much Americans depend on electricity, it is time that the nation infuses the energy supply with a significant percentage of renewably-generated electricity.

On a given day I wake up to an alarm clock, flip on the bathroom light, take a hot shower, heat water on the stove for oatmeal and herbal tea, listen to the radio, blow dry my hair, check my email, type notes on my laptop, text message with my cell phone, read the news online, microwave my lunch, listen to my iPod, work some more on my computer, cook dinner, and at the end of the day turn off the lights and set that alarm clock to start over again the next day. …

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