State Renewable Energy Resources
On this page:
- Benefits of Renewable Energy
- Barriers to Renewable Energy
- State Policies to Support Renewable Energy
- EPA Programs that Support Renewable Energy
- Tools and Resources
Renewable energy is electricity generated by fuel sources that restore themselves over a short period of time and do not diminish. Although some renewable energy technologies have an impact on the environment, renewables are considered environmentally preferable to conventional sources and, when replacing fossil fuels, have significant potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
While states identify renewable technologies differently for the purposes of meeting state targets and goals, most include at mininum:
- Solar (photovoltaic, solar thermal)
- Biogas (e.g., landfill gas/wastewater treatment digester gas)
- Low-impact hydroelectricity
Options for using renewable energy include:
- Generating renewable energy on–site using a system or device at the location where the power is used (e.g., PV panels on a state building, geothermal heat pumps, biomass-fueled combined heat and power).
- Purchasing renewable energy through renewable energy certificates (RECs) – also known as green tags, green energy certificates, or tradable renewable certificates – that represent the technology and environmental attributes of electricity generated from renewable resources.
- Purchasing renewable energy from an electric utility through a green pricing or green marketing program, where buyers pay a small premium in exchange for electricity generated locally from renewable energy resources.
Environmental and economic benefits of adding renewable energy to a state portfolio can include:
- Generating energy that produces no greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels and reduces some types of air pollution
- Diversifying energy supply and reducing dependence on imported fuels
- Creating economic development and jobs in manufacturing, installation, and more
Price competitiveness is the most obvious barrier to renewable energy installations. In many cases, barriers to expanding renewable energy are regulatory and therefore within state control. Some examples include:
Utility Rate Structures. Unfavorable utility rate structures have been a perennial barrier to increased deployment of renewable energy technologies. Unless carefully monitored to encourage the development of distributed generation, rate structures can increase the cost of renewables (e.g., through stand-by rates, lack of net metering) or completely prohibit connection to the electrical grid.
Lack of Interconnection Standards. The absence of standard interconnection rules, or uniform procedures and technical requirements for connecting renewable energy systems to the electric utility's grid, can make it difficult, if not impossible, for renewable systems to connect to the electric utility's grid.
Barriers in Environmental Permitting. Large–scale renewable energy technologies are subject to all the necessary environmental permits of major industrial facilities. Renewable energy generation using new technologies can face permitting hurdles until permitting officials are familiar with the environmental effects of the generation processes.
Lack of Transmission. Many renewable resources are located in remote areas that lack ready or cost–effective access to transmission. States that have not established clear utility regulations that enable investments in transmission to be reimbursable (i.e., cost recovery), nor coordinated planning and permitting processes, slow the development of utility–scale renewable projects in their territory.
The number of renewable energy installations across states varies widely, reflecting individual state or regional priorities, and not always due to resource or technical potential. For example, the top eight states ranked by the capacity of their installed solar power include states in the southwest and northeast (CA, NJ, AZ, MA, NY, NV, TX, PA) ) represent 99.5 percent of all solar PV installations, whereas nationally, the greatest potential for PV-generated electricity is within nine southwestern and western states (AZ, CA, CO, HI, NM, NV, TX, UT, WY).
States have adopted a number of policies to support greater investment in and adoption of renewable energy technologies.
- Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) require electric utilities and other retail electric providers to provide a specified percentage or amount of customer electricity with eligible renewable resources. EPA has held multiple State Webinars on RPS. Policy details are available from EPA's Energy and Environment Guide to Action Chapter 5: Renewable Portfolio Standards.
- Public Benefits Funds for Renewable Energy are a pool of resources used by states to invest in clean energy supply projects. Funds are typically created by levying a small charge on customers' electricity rates (i.e., a system benefits charge). Policy details are available from EPA's Energy & Environment Guide to Action Chapter 3: Funding and Financial Incentive Policies.
- Output–Based Environmental Regulations establish emissions limits per unit of productive energy output of a process (i.e., electricity, thermal energy, or shaft power), with the goal of encouraging fuel conversion efficiency and renewable energy as air pollution control measures. Policy details are available from EPA's Energy and Environment Guide to Action Chapter 6: Policy Considerations for Combined Heat and Power: Policy Considerations for Combined Heat and Power.
- Interconnection Standards are processes and technical requirements that delineate how electric utilities in a state will treat renewable energy sources that need to connect to the electric grid. The establishment of standard procedures can reduce uncertainty and delays that renewable energy systems can encounter when obtaining electric grid connection in states that have not established interconnection standards. Policy details are available from EPA's Energy and Environment Guide to Action Chapter 7: Electric Utility Policies. The Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC) offers Model Interconnection Procedures Exitfor utility regulators.
- Net Metering enables residential or commercial customers who generate their own renewable electricity (e.g., solar photovoltaic panels) to receive compensation for the electricity they generate. Net metering rules require electric utilities in a state to ensure that customers' electric meters accurately track how much electricity is used on site or returned to the electric grid. When electricity generated on site is not used, it is returned to the grid; when on site generation is not sufficient to meet the customer's needs, the customer uses electricity from the grid. In effect, excess electricity is returned to the customer at a later time when they otherwise would have paid for it. The Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC) offers Model Net Metering Rules Exit.
- Feed–In Tariffs encourage the development of renewable energy by obligating electric utilities to pay pre–established above-market rates for renewable power fed onto the grid. These tariffs, which may vary depending on the type of resource used, provide renewable generators with a set stream of income from their projects. Although common in Europe, in 2009, California, Hawaii, Vermont, and Washington were the first states in the U.S. to establish feed–in tariffs. Policy details are available from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory State Clean Energy Policies Analysis (SCEPA) Project: An Analysis of Renewable Energy Feed–in Tariffs in the United States.
- Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) is a financing option that attaches the obligation to repay the cost of renewable energy installations or energy efficiency retrofits to a residential property rather than an individual borrower. This mechanism encourages property owners to invest in clean energy improvements even if the payback period is longer than the owner intends to keep the property. PACE NOW Exitmaintains a list of states and local governments that allow PACE programs.
- Financial Incentives—such as grants, loans, rebates, and tax credits—are provided in some states to encourage renewable energy development. The Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency Exittracks the availability of incentives offered by state.
Green Power Partnership (GPP) is a voluntary program that supports the organizational procurement of green power by offering expert advice, technical support, tools, and resources. The Partnership works with hundreds of companies, colleges and universities, organizations, and local, state, and federal government agencies. GPP provides resources to states on how they can lead by example by purchasing green power for government operations.
Landfill Methane Outreach Program (LMOP) is a voluntary assistance and partnership program that promotes the use of landfill gas as a renewable, green energy source. By preventing emissions of methane through the development of landfill gas energy projects, LMOP helps businesses, states, energy providers, and communities protect the environment and build a sustainable future.
AgSTAR is a voluntary program that promotes the use of biogas recovery systems to reduce methane emissions from livestock waste.
RE–Powering America's Lands - EPA is encouraging renewable energy development on current and formerly contaminated land and mining sites. This initiative identifies the renewable energy potential of these sites and provides other useful resources for communities, developers, industry, state and local governments or anyone interested in reusing these sites for renewable energy development.
Clean Energy-Environment Guide to Action
The Guide to Action provides in-depth information about 16 clean energy policies and programs that states are using to meet their energy, environmental, and economic objectives. Section 5 of the Guide includes information on renewable portfolio standards, public benefits funds for state clean energy supply, interconnection standards, fostering green power markets, and lead by example initiatives.
Database of State Incentives for Renewable Energy (DSIRE)
DSIRE Exit is a comprehensive source of information on the status of state programs and incentives promoting renewable energy, including information on financial incentives and net metering policies, as well as related awareness and investment programs.
Distributed Renewable Energy Finance and Policy Toolkit
The Distributed Renewable Energy Finance and Policy Toolkit (PDF) (32 pp, 865K) Exit describes the many financing options available to state energy offices, municipal governments, and other energy agencies for utilizing public funds for clean energy project support. The report analyzes their strengths and weaknesses and identifies best practices. One key finding is that the use of these tools as a portfolio of approaches creates the most robust, effective programs.
Renewable Energy Certificate Tracking Systems
Because Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) can be sold separately from the underlying electricity, the possibility for fraud can exist unless the RECs are tracked from their point of creation to their final point of use. EPA's Green Power Partnership provides an overview of REC tracking systems, including a map of the regional tracking systems that have been developed in the United States.
AgSTAR National Mapping Tool
AgSTAR’s National Mapping Tool helps you locate anaerobic digesters using livestock waste; examine the potential for growth in the agricultural sector; identify and compare investments; and compare state incentives, policies, standards and emissions.
Biomass Resource Maps
This website provides county–level biomass resource maps, which are useful for states interested in their feedstock potential in the following categories: crop residues, forest residues, primary mill residues, secondary mill residues, urban wood waste, methane emissions from landfills, methane emissions from manure management, methane emissions from wastewater treatment plants, and dedicated energy crops.
Forest Inventory Data Online (FIDO)
This online tool provides access to the National Forest Inventory and Analysis databases. It can be used to generate tables and maps of forest statistics by running standard reports for a specific state or county and survey year, or customized reports based on criteria selected by the user.
Landfill Methane Outreach Program (LMOP) Landfill Database
The Landfill Methane Outreach Program (LMOP) Landfill Database provides a nationwide listing of operational and under construction landfill gas (LFG) energy projects; candidate municipal solid waste landfills having LFG energy potential; and information on additional landfills that could represent LFG energy opportunities.
Market Opportunities for Biogas Recovery Systems
This report assesses the market potential for biogas energy projects at swine and dairy farms in the United States. For the top ten swine and dairy states, the guide characterizes the sizes and types of operations where biogas projects are technically feasible, along with estimates of potential methane production, electricity generation, and greenhouse gas emission reductions.
Open PV Mapping Project
Open PV Mapping Project is a collaborative effort between government, industry, and the public to develop a comprehensive database of photovoltaic (PV) installation data for the United States. The project includes over 50,000 installations and provides a Web-based resource for users to easily understand the current status and past progress of the PV industry.
States Advancing Solar
The States Advancing Solar Resource Center Exitis a continuously updated list of reports and other publications regarding solar technologies and state solar programs. The materials are searchable by title, author, and by topic categories.
Solar Energy Technologies Program
The Solar Energy Technologies Program focuses on accelerating market competitiveness by targeting cost reductions and supporting increased solar deployment. Subprograms focus on photovoltaics, concentrating solar power, systems integration, and market transformation.
Solar Power Purchase Agreements
A Solar Power Purchase Agreement (SPPA) is a financial arrangement in which a third-party developer owns, operates, and maintains a photovoltaic (PV) system, and a customer hosts the system on its property and purchases the system's electric output for a predetermined period. EPA's Green Power Partnership has developed a Web page to provide information on SPPAs, how they are structured, and the benefits and challenges of implementing them.
Installed Price of Photovoltaics in the U.S.
Tracking the Sun: The Installed Price of Residential and Non-Residential Photovoltaic Systems in the United States summarizes trends in the installed price of grid-connected PV systems in the United States. The present report focuses on systems installed through year-end 2015, with preliminary data for the first half of 2016.
Utility-Scale Solar in the U.S.
Utility-Scale Solar 2015: An Empirical Analysis of Project Cost, Performance, and Pricing Trends in the United States provides data-drive analysis of the utility-scale solar fleet in the United States, including installed project costs , operating costs, capacity factors, and power purchase agreement prices.
Annual Report on U.S. Wind Power
Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory's Annual Wind Technologies Market Report reviews the price of wind power in the U.S. and describes trends in installed wind project costs, wind turbine transaction prices, project performance, and operations and maintenance expenses. The report also examines other factors impacting the domestic wind power market, including grid integration costs, transmission issues, and policy drivers.
US Department of Energy's Wind Program
DOE's Wind Program is part of the of the federal government's effort to support the increased deployment of wind energy facilities on public, private, and tribal lands, airspace, and offshore. This site is a resource for information on the siting of wind turbines and Federal activities to support the increased deployment of wind energy.
National Wind Coordinating Committee
The National Wind Coordinating Committee Exit is comprised of representatives from the utility, wind industry, environmental, consumer, regulatory, power marketer, agricultural, tribal, economic development, and state and federal government sectors to support the development of an environmentally, economically, and politically sustainable commercial market for wind power.
Utility Variable-Generation Integration Group
The mission of the Utility Variable-Generation Integration Group (UWIG) Exit is to accelerate the development and application of good engineering and operational practices supporting the appropriate integration of wind power into the electric system.
WINDExchange is the U.S. Department of Energy Wind Program’s platform for sharing credible information about wind energy. The purpose of WINDExchange is to help communities weigh the benefits and costs of wind energy, understand the deployment process, and make wind development decisions supported by the best available information.
Geothermal Technologies Program
The U.S. Department of Energy's Geothermal Technologies Program works in partnership with U.S. industry to establish geothermal energy as an economically competitive contributor to the U.S. energy supply.