Survey of State-Level Cost and Benefit Estimates of Renewable Portfolio Standards

Lori Bird, Jenny Heeter, Francisco Flores-Espino, Galen Barbose, Samantha Weaver, Ryan Wiser

Research output: NRELTechnical Report


Most renewable portfolio standards (RPS) have five or more years of implementation experience, enabling an assessment of their costs and benefits. Understanding RPS costs and benefits is essential for policymakers evaluating existing RPS policies, assessing the need for modifications, and considering new policies. This study provides an overview of methods used to estimate RPS compliance costs and benefits, based on available data and estimates issued by utilities and regulators. Over the 2010-2012 period, average incremental RPS compliance costs in the United States were equivalent to 0.8% of retail electricity rates, although substantial variation exists around this average, both from year-to-year and across states. The methods used by utilities and regulators to estimate incremental compliance costs vary considerably from state to state and a number of states are currently engaged in processes to refine and standardize their approaches to RPS cost calculation. The report finds that state assessments of RPS benefits have most commonly attempted to quantitatively assess avoided emissions and human health benefits, economic development impacts, and wholesale electricity price savings. Compared to the summary of RPS costs, the summary of RPS benefits is more limited, as relatively few states have undertaken detailed benefits estimates, and then only for a few types of potential policy impacts. In some cases, the same impacts may be captured in the assessment of incremental costs. For these reasons, and because methodologies and level of rigor varywidely, direct comparisons between the estimates of benefits and costs are challenging.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages109
StatePublished - 2014

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/TP-6A20-61042

Other Report Number

  • LBNL-6589E


  • benefit
  • compliance
  • costs
  • impacts
  • incremental cost
  • policy
  • renewable portfolio standard
  • RPS
  • solar


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