Cashing in on Clean Energy: A National Renewable Electricity Standard Will Benefit California's Economy and the Environment

Released by: Environment California

Executive Summary

America’s current energy system is dominated by fossil fuels, which pose serious threats to our health and environment and leave us vulnerable to price spikes and supply shortages. With the threat of global warming becoming increasingly urgent, we must make responsible energy choices today that ensure a safe, reliable power supply and a healthy environment for future generations.

Fortunately, there are practical and affordable ways to achieve this goal.  Homegrown renewable energy resources—such as wind, solar, bioenergy, and geothermal—can help reduce our dependence on polluting fossil fuels. These clean energy sources can also help stabilize energy prices, stimulate the development of innovative new technology, and create high-quality jobs and other economic benefits for California and the nation.

Strong national policies can ensure these benefits are fully realized. The policy that has proven most effective A National Renewable Electricity Standard Will Benefit California’s Economy and the Environment and popular at the state level is a renewable electricity standard (also known as a renewable portfolio standard or RPS), which requires electricity providers to supply a minimum percentage of their power from clean energy sources. As of June 2007, renewable electricity standards have been adopted in California and 22 other states. At the national level, the U.S. Senate has passed a 10 percent by 2020 national renewable electricity standard three times since 2002—most recently in June 2005.

Momentum continues to grow for a strong national standard. A 20 percent by 2020 standard was introduced in the House of Representatives in February 2007, and a 15 percent by

2020 standard is under consideration in the Senate.1 Using a model from the Energy Information Administration (EIA), the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) examined the long-term effects that a national 20 percent by 2020 standard would have on the economy and the environment, under two different scenarios: an “EIA case,” which assumes no changes to the model, and a “UCS case,” which makes several modifications (described in the “Modeling Methods” on the back page). Our analysis found that, under both cases, a national standard would provide significant benefits for California. The findings from the UCS case 20 percent national standard are presented below, followed by findings for the EIA case 20 percent standard.