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Emissions Reductions from Expanding State-Level Renewable Portfolio Standards

CSS Publication Number
Full Publication Date
May 05, 2015

In the United States, state-level Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) have served as key drivers for the development of new renewable energy. This research presents a method to evaluate emissions reductions and costs attributable to new or expanded RPS programs by integrating a comprehensive economic dispatch model and a renewable project selection model.  The latter model minimizes incremental RPS costs, accounting for renewable power purchase agreements (PPAs), displaced generation and capacity costs, and net changes to a state’s imports and exports. We test this method on potential expansions to Michigan’s RPS, evaluating target renewable penetrations of 10% (business as usual or BAU), 20%, 25%, and 40%, with varying times to completion. Relative to the BAU case, these expanded RPS policies reduce the CO2 intensity of generation by 13%, 18%, and 33% by 2035, respectively. SO2 emissions intensity decreased by 13%, 20%, and 34% for each of the three scenarios, while NOx reductions totaled 12%, 17%, and 31%, relative to the BAU case. For CO2 and NOx, absolute reductions in emissions intensity were not as large due to an increasing trend in emissions intensity in the BAU case driven by load growth. Over the study period (2015 to 2035), the absolute CO2 emissions intensity increased by 1% in the 20% RPS case and decreased by 6% and 22% for the 25% and 40% cases, respectively. Between 26% and 31% of the CO2, SO2, and NOx emissions reductions attributable to the expanded RPS occur in neighboring states, underscoring the challenges quantifying local emissions reductions from state-level energy policies with an interconnected grid. Without federal subsidies, the cost of CO2 mitigation using an RPS in Michigan is between $28 and $34/t CO2 when RPS targets are met. The optimal renewable build plan is sensitive to the capacity credit for solar but insensitive to the value for wind power.

Research Areas
Energy Systems
Publication Type
Journal Article
Digital Object Identifier
DOI: 10.1021/es506123e
Full Citation
Johnson, Jeremiah X. and Joshua Novacheck. (2015) “Emissions Reductions from Expanding State-Level Renewable Portfolio Standards.” Environmental Science & Technology. 49(9): 5318-5325.