State Lawmakers Eye Bigger Renewable Portfolio Standards


State renewable portfolio standards (RPS), which require utilities to source a certain percentage of their power load from renewables, have served as some of the biggest drivers of U.S. clean energy development over the years. Furthermore, a recent report found that such mandates lead to significant environmental and economic benefits.

Over half of the states in the U.S. currently have RPS policies, and utilities across the country, such as in Michigan and Minnesota, have met or exceeded their requirements. However, some states are pushing even further, increasing their RPS goals. For example, California beefed up its RPS to 50% by 2030 last year, and most recently, Oregon passed an anti-coal, 50%-by-2040 mandate.

Now, legislators in New Jersey and Maryland are working to pass larger RPS targets of their own.

In a 24-15 vote on March 14, the New Jersey Senate passed S.1707, a bill that would increase the state’s RPS to a whopping 80% of Class I renewables, such as wind and solar, by 2050. The current policy calls for 22.5% by 2020.

The legislation now heads to the state Assembly for consideration. Notably, the state Senate passed a similar bill at the end of last year, but it died in the Assembly with the closing of the legislative session.

In a press release, Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, says S.1707 “sends a clear message that New Jersey is ready for more renewable energy.”

He adds, “This legislation is critical for the future of our state if we want to deal with climate change while growing our economy.”

Elsewhere on the East Coast, in Maryland, the state House of Delegates overwhelmingly approved H.B.1106, which would increase Maryland’s current RPS from 20% by 2022, with a 2% solar carve-out, to 25% to 2020, with a 2.5% solar carve-out. The bill passed in a 92-43 vote on March 21, and it goes to the state Senate for consideration.

According to a release from the Maryland Climate Coalition, a big supporter of the bill, increasing the RPS to 25% would lead to about 1.3 GW of clean energy and create more than 1,000 new solar jobs in the state. In partnership with renewable energy company SunEdison Inc., the coalition recently revealed poll results showing that the vast majority of Marylanders support the bill.

Nancy Soreng – co-president of the Maryland League of Women Voters, a member of the Maryland Climate Coalition – calls the House vote “a major step toward making Maryland a leader in clean energy and climate protection.”

“The support of more than 170 Maryland businesses shows that a healthy economy and a healthy climate go hand in hand,” she continues.

The coalition adds that although the original bill had some specific provisions to invest in clean energy job training, a subcommittee amended the bill and, therefore, the workforce funding is now expected to be included in separate legislation.

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