The good news is that 29 states and the District of Columbia at least have renewable energy development requirements in place (known as Renewable Portfolio Standards) and, if well-crafted, they could play an integral part in curbing the worst effects of climate change. The bad news is that with the goals and sources they’re operating with now, they won’t even make a dent. Can you believe that in some states, flaming chicken feces gets counted as “renewable” energy? That’s just the start, and that’s why we’ve dubbed this practice “cleanwashing” in our full report.
What Are Renewable Portfolio Standards?
A Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) is a set of state rules to promote development of renewable energy. The first was put in place in Iowa in 1983 and since then the practice has expanded. How meaningful each state’s standard is varies by the goals they set and what types of energy sources count as renewable.
One of the biggest ways states earned a failing grade from Food & Water Watch is by including these six dirty sources of energy as renewable:
- So-called “clean” coal
- Nuclear power
- Wood-burning power
- Waste incineration (municipal garbage and poultry litter)
- Waste methane burning (from landfills, sewage treatment plants, and factory farms)
- Paper mill residue (known as black liquor)
The map below contains the grades for how many dirty energy sources are contained in the RPS, one element of the overall RPS grade. The overall grades are found in the report.
Click individual states for details.
Another part of our overall evaluation in the report is assessing how aggressive the goals are for each state. A strong RPS aims for 100% renewable energy within the next two decades or sooner.
How Must These Renewable Portfolio Standards Be Overhauled?
It’s crucial to revamp these standards immediately in order to help stop climate change’s worst effects on humanity.
First, each state must stop including dirty energy sources toward their renewable energy goals. It’s disingenuous, makes a mockery of their entire effort, and it contributes to CO2 emissions that hurt rather than help us. Dr. Ana Baptista, an Assistant Professor at The New School University in NYC and board member of the environmental justice-focused Ironbound Community Corporation in Newark, NJ says,
“Incinerators like the Covanta facility in Newark, NJ are reminders of the local pollution and health burdens placed on our most vulnerable and overburdened communities by the incineration industry. New Jersey’s RPS subsidies help to prop up this dirty, decaying industry at the expense of low income communities of color. There is nothing green or renewable about burning garbage.”
Secondly, each state must raise its target renewable energy to 100% and accelerate its timeline to extend no further than twenty years from now.
And finally, the states that don’t yet have a Renewable Portfolio Standard must adopt a strong, mandatory RPS program that meets the criteria above. When it comes to changes that can make the biggest impact on climate change, Renewable Portfolio Standards are one of the most important and potentially effective programs in the fight to save our future.
What You Can Do To Help
Share this with your friends — everybody needs to know how important RPS programs are to our future! They are one of the best tools we have in the fight to keep our climate livable. Get involved with your local Food & Water Watch office to find more ways to set or improve RPS in your state.