Growing and funding existing US renewable energy standards could drastically save our country hundreds of billions of dollars in not just environmental costs, but also health costs, by 2050. New research from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory of California and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory of Colorado found that air quality and climate change mitigation would allow a boom in the economy. This economic benefit would still be positive even considering the costs included with renewable energy.
Renewable portfolio standards are currently used in about 30 states and require states to increase production with renewable energy resources. This research analyzed the future costs and benefits of these requirements. Currently, the standards put in place in the 30 states could yield serious economic benefits. If they were implemented on a federal level, could change our economy drastically. Each state has different standards as to what constitutes a Renewable Energy Credit depending on the type of technology and the regulations within that state. For example, solar energy counts for double the amount of credit compared to other renewable energies in Michigan and Virginia.
Lead author Dr. Ryan Wiser, from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, said: “Our analysis shows that, even under conservative assumptions, the health and environmental benefits of using renewable energy to meet RPS demand will likely exceed the costs. For existing RPS policies, the lower-bound estimates for human health benefits associated with improved air quality come in at at least $48 billion, plus $37 billion in benefits from reduced damage to the climate.”
This research also studied the effect this would have if these policies expanded across the country. It predicted that the costs would be around $194 billion but the increased revenue would still outweigh the costs. RPS program, the research shows, are not likely to represent the most cost-effective way to reach air quality and climate benefits. The research did show that these programs, if nationally accepted, would be cost-effective when considering externalities.
The shift to renewable energy is definitely a long-term investment that will not only benefit the economy and climate, it could boost new industries within the country. There is a cost to investing in wind, solar, and even geothermal energy but the economic benefits seem apparent when researching the long-term effects.