The Environmental and Cost Implications of Solar Energy Preferences in Renewable Portfolio Standards
Many state-level Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) include preferences for solar generation, with goals of increasing the generation diversity, reducing solar costs, and encouraging local solar industries. Depending on their policy design, these preferences can impact the RPS program costs and emissions reduction. This study evaluates the impact of these policies on costs and emissions, coupling an economic dispatch model with optimized renewable site selection. Three policy designs of an increased RPS in Michigan are investigated: (1) 20% Solar Carve-Out, (2) 5% Distributed Generation Solar Carve-Out, and (3) 3× Solar Multiplier. The 20% Solar Carve-Out scenario was found to increase RPS costs 28%, while the 5% Distributed Generation Solar Carve-Out increased costs by 34%. Both of these solar preferences had minimal impact on total emissions. The 3× Solar Multiplier decreases total RPS program costs by 39%, but adds less than half of the total renewable generation of the other cases, significantly increasing emissions of CO2, NOx, and SO2 relative to an RPS without the solar credit multiplier. Sensitivity analysis of the installed cost of solar and the natural gas price finds small changes in the results of the Carve-Out cases, with a larger impact on the 3× Solar Multiplier.