CSG Midwest's Question of the Month: A look at renewable energy laws and use

Stateline Midwest ~ July/August 2012

Question: How many states in the region have adopted renewable portfolio standards, and how far along are the states in meeting them?

Answer: In the Midwest, 10 of 11 states — all but Nebraska — have passed a renewable or alternative energy portfolio standard or voluntary goal.

Renewable portfolio standards (RPS) require that a certain percentage of the power generated by a utility come from renewables (such as wind, solar or hydro) by a certain date. In contrast, alternative energy portfolio standards (AEPS) also incorporate power generation from sources such as nuclear energy or “clean coal.” (What exactly is included in the AEPS varies from state to state.)

Michigan and Ohio both have an AEPS. Under the Michigan law, up to 10 percent of the state’s standard (10 percent by 2015) can be met through the use of technologies that reduce emissions by 85 percent (based on average coal plant emissions) — gasification and carbon sequestration, for example.

Up to half of Ohio’s standard (25 percent by 2025) can come from alternative energy sources; the other half must come from renewables.

Indiana, North Dakota and South Dakota have voluntary standards, while the other five states in the region have an RPS in place. Over the last 10 years, nearly every state in the region has increased the percentage of electricity generated by renewable sources, though some have made more progress than others.

In 2011, Iowa (17 percent) and South Dakota (21 percent) joined Maine (27 percent) as the three U.S. states generating the highest percentage of power from renewable sources. A decade ago, South Dakota and Iowa generated less than 1 percent of their power from renewables.

Other states where renewable generation has increased significantly include North Dakota, Minnesota and Kansas — with a rise in the production and use of wind power being the primary driver.

With the exception of Iowa, which has had its law in place since 1983, all of the Midwestern states’ RPS and AEPS laws were adopted within the last six years. While most states in the Midwest have made major strides in renewable energy production, especially in wind generation, the U.S. Energy Information Administration says that many renewable standards have not been in effect long enough to have had a major impact.