Massachusetts

Learn More about the RPS

Before speaking to your Massachusetts representative about the Renewable Portfolio Standard, consider reviewing the material in this section to learn about the RPS, and why we need to strengthen this important law to protect the environment for our children.

What is a Renewable Portfolio Standard, or “RPS?”

  • An RPS is a law that requires that a minimum percentage of electricity be supplied by eligible renewable resources.
  • An RPS law provides a foundation for clean energy markets. RPS laws are proven to support successful, cost effective renewable energy development at the state level.
  • Massachusetts is one of 29 states and Washington, D.C. with an RPS in place; the MA RPS was established in 1997.

The Massachusetts RPS requires that:

  • In 2017, all electricity suppliers must source 12% of their supply from “Class I” renewables (built since 1997), which include solar, wind, landfill gas, and biomass.
  • The minimum percentage of electricity supplied by renewable resources increases by 1% every year. This creates a demand for more renewables to come online every year.
    • There are several bills pending in the state legislature that would increase that rate of increase, most of them by 2% or 3%.

 

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Why Is the RPS so Important?

  • Our coastal location, the pace of climate change, and the consequences of sea level rise, necessitate that MA be a leader in transitioning from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources – for our children.
  • This will make our electricity supply more reliable, protect us against volatile fossil fuel prices, and steadily reduce our state’s harmful carbon dioxide and methane emissions.
  • Other states, such as California, have more aggressive renewable energy goals; Massachusetts should be among the national leaders.

Why should we raise the annual rate of RPS increase?

  • A May, 2017 analysis by Synapse Energy Economics and Sustainable Energy Advantage found the current 1% per year increase in the RPS is not sufficient to assure compliance with the Massachusetts Global Warming Solutions Act (GWSA) mandated requirements. In fact, that level of increase would undermine efforts to sustain existing renewable resources and to finance new investments in renewables.
  • The analysis concludes that a 3% increase is required to drive the renewables market. With a 3% increase per year, utilities would be required to buy 50% of their electricity from Class I renewable resources by 2030, as required by the MA Global Warming Solutions Act. Any increase less than 3% does not achieve this vital goal.
  • A 3% annual RPS increase will create jobs in renewables industries, stop the expenditure of energy dollars for fossil fuels outside of Massachusetts, and diversify our energy mix.
  • RPS increase is the most effective and efficient way to ensure predictable steady growth in renewable energy industries in MA.

We Have the MA Clean Energy Standard, so Why Do We Need the RPS?

The Baker Administration recently issued the “Clean Energy Standard” (CES), a set of energy regulations that includes nuclear power and large Canadian hydro power. However, regardless of the CES, an increase in the RPS for Class 1 resources is essential because:

  • While nuclear and hydro power are reasonably clean from a climate change perspective—and, for that reason, we need them— they do not reduce our need to support the use of Class 1 resources like wind and solar.
  • Wind and solar energy do not have the disadvantages of nuclear power (e.g., nuclear waste) or those associated with large hydro (e.g., long transmission lines that disrupt ecosystems).
  • Solar energy is a huge boon to employment, and offshore wind promises to create an entire new industry in the Northeast.

What Are the Arguments Against Increasing the RPS?

  • Cost: Some people claim the RPS will make electricity too expensive. But the analysis by Synapse Energy Economics and Sustainable Energy Advantage doesn’t support this fear. According to this analysis, average monthly retail electric bills for residential ratepayers in Massachusetts are expected to increase $0.15 to $2.17 per month, depending on the rate of RPS expansion, compared to a future in which the RPS is not increased.
  • Insufficient resources: Some people claim there is not enough renewable power to meet demand.  Actually, the RPS is designed, in part, to help create more demand for development of renewable energy sources.
  • Jobs: some people fear the use of renewable energy will eliminate jobs. However, research and the existing clean energy industry have demonstrated the demand for renewable energy has created new jobs.
  • Massachusetts is already a leader in clean energy, no improvements are needed! Actually, we want to continue to accelerate the development and use of clean energy, and to model visionary solutions. At the current annual RPS increase rate of 1%, we would not reach 100% renewables until the year 2100. We need to increase the pace!

Where can I find even more details about the RPS?


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