Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS)

The Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) is a regulatory framework that requires states to generate a certain amount of electricity from renewable energy sources. For instance, under its RPS, California aims to generate twenty percent of its electricity from qualifying renewable energy sources by December 31, 2010. To accomplish this goal, most state RPS programs require utilities to buy a certain percentage of their electricity from renewable sources.

One of the key elements of an RPS is the types of energy sources that qualify as renewable. Typically, solar and wind are the most preferred renewable energy sources in an RPS. Since the goal of an RPS is to encourage the development of new renewable energy sources, most states don't let existing hydropower qualify. However, each state treats hydropower in its own way. In some states, hydropower is restricted by size (e.g. 200 MW in Vermont) while in others it is restricted by technology (e.g. pumped storage does not qualify in Maryland).

In various states, attempts are being made to include existing hydropower to be eligible for RPS. This is problematic because such a move would do nothing to create new renewable energy sources. Many of the utilities will be able to claim their existing hydro portfolio as being eligible under the RPS and could easily meet their targets without developing new sources of renewable energy, which would defeat the purpose of an RPS.

The Coalition believes that the following principles should be applied for hydropower under any RPS:

  1. No new dams
  2. No existing hydropower except incremental hydropower that includes:
  • Capacity additions at existing projects
  • Efficiency improvements at existing hydro projects

3. Hydropower projects that take additional steps to protect the local system- for example, through the Low Impact Hydropower Institute's certification program.

This table gives an overview of the RPS standards for various states. Note that not all states have a RPS standard yet. Some states are currently revising either the RPS goals or the standards. The information below is the most current as of January 2009.

This map below shows the RPS goals and the hydro provisions within the RPS standards for each state.
















View State Renewable Portfolio Standards & Hydropower in a larger map