This WRI policy brief makes the case for a national renewable electricity standard (RES), and makes recommendations for specific design features that a national RES should include.

Key Findings

A national RES should include:
  • Eligibility requirements that reduce GHG emissions, lead to local environmental improvements, and minimize negative environmental impacts.
  • The establishment of a long-term, legally binding target that covers all electricity suppliers
  • National sourcing of renewable energy certificates.
  • The option for state RES targets that exceed the national target.
Benefits to U.S.

The U.S. would benefit in a variety of important ways:

  • Reductions in CO2 emissions and energy bills from low-carbon sources of energy, improved air and water quality, and new jobs and economic opportunity in under-served communities.
  • Businesses will benefit from reduced price volatility, lower energy costs and new investment opportunities.
  • The incentives provided by a national RES, combined with our spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship, could allow America to lead the world in renewable energy technologies while taking a significant step towards tackling the critical threat of global climate change.

Executive Summary

A RES, also called a renewable portfolio standard (RPS), requires electricity suppliers to obtain a minimum percentage of their power from eligible renewable energy sources by a certain date. To date, a patchwork of 25 states and the District of Columbia have implemented renewable electricity standards (RES). the 110th Congress is considering the establishment of a national RES, but no such standard exists at present.

A national renewable electricity standard could encourage competition and innovation in the renewable energy field, reduce renewable energy cost, and strategically diversify away from polluting sources of energy. By driving renewables to scale in the United States, a RES also creates an opportunity for American industry to excel in the development and deployment of renewable energy projects---and can position the U.S. as a leading supplier in growing international market place.