EIA studies impact of 15% renewables stipulation

12 June 2007

By stipulating that a proportion of US electricity sales are derived from renewable energy sources, national nuclear generation would be reduced by less than 5% between 2005 and 2030, according to the Department of Energy's (DoE's) Energy Information Administration (EIA).


The EIA was asked by US Senator Jeff Bingaman, chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, to analyse the impact of a federal renewable portfolio standard (RPS) requiring that 15% of US electricity sales be derived from qualifying renewable energy resources.


An RPS is a policy that requires covered electricity retailers to supply a specified share of total electricity sales from qualifying renewable energy resources. As of the end of 2006, 23 US states and the District of Columbia had enacted an RPS or similar renewable energy requirement. The Federal RPS analysed by the EIA would apply to electricity retailers on a nationwide basis, establishing a target level for the market share of qualifying renewable resources that grows over time until a final target level of 15% is reached in 2020.


The EIA concluded that the increase in renewable generation stimulated by such an RPS primarily displaces coal-fired generation. By 2030, coal generation is 3086 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) with the RPS compared with 3330 billion kWh in the reference case, a reduction of some 7%. Coal generation is still expected to grow significantly from 2000 billion kWh in 2005. Nuclear generation is reduced by less than 5%, to 856 billion kWh with the RPS from 896 billion kWh in the reference case. As with coal, this still represents significant growth relative to 2005 generation levels. Natural gas generation is about 2% less than the 2030 reference case level of 932 billion kWh.


Although carbon dioxide emissions from the power sector increase in both the reference case and with the RPS policy, the rate of growth is lower with the policy. In the reference case, CO2 emissions are projected to rise to 3338 million tonnes by 2030, from some 2375 million tonnes in 2005. With the RPS policy, CO2 emissions are projected at almost 3116 million tonnes in 2030, about 6.7% less than the reference case, but still substantially higher than in 2005. Emissions of regulated sulphur, nitrogen, and mercury emissions are not expected to significantly change with this policy because they are limited by existing programs.


Congress is considering major energy legislation to increase US energy independence and to reduce the environmental impact of energy production and use. Senator Bingaman says that as part of that legislation he intends to introduce legislation requiring utilities to provide certain proportions of their electricity to consumers from renewable energy sources.


Further information


Energy Information Administration (EIA)
Link to full report (in PDF format) on EIA website
Senator Jeff Bingaman


WNA's US Nuclear Power Industry information paper
 Renewable Energy and Electricity information paper

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