A Retrospective Analysis of Benefits and Impacts of U.S. Renewable Portfolio Standards

Jenny Heeter, Trieu Mai, Alberta Carpenter Petri, Garvin Heath, David Keyser, Jordan Macknick, Galen Barbose, Ryan Wiser, Mark Bolinger, Andrew Mills, Dev Millstein, Lori Bird

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

120 Scopus Citations


As states consider revising or developing renewable portfolio standards (RPS), they are evaluating policy costs, benefits, and other impacts. We present the first U. S. national-level assessment of state RPS program benefits and impacts, focusing on new renewable electricity resources used to meet RPS compliance obligations in 2013. In our central-case scenario, reductions in life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions from displaced fossil fuel-generated electricity resulted in $2.2 billion of global benefits. Health and environmental benefits from reductions in criteria air pollutants (sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and particulate matter 2.5) were even greater, estimated at $5.2 billion in the central case. Further benefits accrued in the form of reductions in water withdrawals and consumption for power generation. Finally, although best considered resource transfers rather than net societal benefits, new renewable electricity generation used for RPS compliance in 2013 also supported nearly 200,000 U. S.-based gross jobs and reduced wholesale electricity prices and natural gas prices, saving consumers a combined $1.3–$4.9 billion. In total, the estimated benefits and impacts well-exceed previous estimates of RPS compliance costs.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)645-660
Number of pages16
JournalEnergy Policy
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2016

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Elsevier Ltd

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-6A20-66851


  • Greenhouse gas, air pollution, water use
  • Renewable energy
  • Renewable portfolio standard
  • RPS


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