The Shaky Political Economy Foundation of a National Renewable Electricity Requirement

This Article argues that a national renewable portfolio standard (RPS) for electric power is not likely to advance its purported goals, nor is it likely to be adopted by Congress in its present proposed form. For one, a national RPS would have geographically disproportionate costs—those costs would be focused on a few, mostly natural resource-poor states, whereas the benefits of job growth and technological adoption in infant industries will be elsewhere. Second, the ability of firms to use operational flexibility regarding their nonrenewable fuel mix to substitute other nonrenewable energy sources for traditional fossil fuels undermines the purported climate change benefits of such a requirement, and usually raises costs and increases inefficiency of energy generation as well. Furthermore, a national RPS fails to address preexisting system-level infrastructure siting and cost allocation barriers in the electric power industry. Without broader reforms to the energy industry, significant new investment in renewable power is unlikely.

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