Modeling Policies to Promote Renewable and Low Carbon Sources of Electricity: Karen Palmer, Richard Sweeney and Maura Allaire (Resources for the Future)
Renewable energy sources for electricity generation include wind, solar photovoltaics, solar thermal, hydroelectric, geothermal (including distributed geothermal), waves, tides, ocean thermal energy, and various types of biomass. Although the potential energy from renewable sources is vast, the current costs of harnessing that energy, especially upfront capital costs, are high relative to the costs of conventional power generation. In addition, concerns exist regarding intermittency and transmission costs. This paper provides a brief background on such concerns, while also examining the costs and effectiveness of a series of federal portfolio standards designed to encourage the growth and deployment of such clean energy technologies. Some portfolio standards focus exclusively on renewables, while others expand coverage to include generation from nuclear, new natural gas plants and other clean energy sources.