Washington’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) is intended to increase use of renewable resources in the state by establishing the minimum amount of renewable energy that the state’s electricity providers must sell in a given year. This legally-established renewable energy procurement goal gradually increases over time to meet the overall target of 15% renewable power by 2020.
The state profile below explores the design of this policy, highlighting the factors that influence the success of Washington’s RPS goals and the tradeoffs inherent to it. Once you’re comfortable with the information on this page, you can evaluate the policy’s expected viability with the RPS Feasibility Calculator. You can also use the calculator to change the policy requirements, trajectory, cost cap, and more, to see how altering Washington’s policy design affects its success.
- 15% of the state’s retail electric sales from must be from renewable sources by 2020, subject to the cost cap
- No carve-outs
- Implicit ‘cost cap’ defined by compliance payments
Carve-outs can create economic opportunities in the state by introducing new or promising technologies into the market. However, these standards limit the utilities’ ability to substitute between renewable energy sources, potentially increasing the cost of the policy. Washington’s RPS does not require specific technologies to meet its annual renewable obligations.
Compare the goal established in the RPS to what is being achieved.
The following chart compares the variety of sources currently used to generate Washington’s electricity. The color of each bar is indicative of the carbon intensity of each source.
Cost Cap Details
Washington does not have an explicit cost cap. However, by allowing alternative compliance payments (ACPs), Washington sets an effective cap on the premium a utility will be willing to pay for renewable energy. The RPS set this cap in 2007 at $50/MWh, which is adjusted annually for inflation (see RCW 19.285.060). If the renewable energy premium exceeds this cap, the utility would prefer to meet the standard by making the lower-cost alternative compliance payments. Using the RPS Feasibility Calculator you can make adjustments to cost of alternative compliance, determining how this impacts the provision of renewable power and the overall viability of the RPS.
Historic retail prices (¢ / kWh)
The above chart presents historical data from the Energy Information Administration (EIA) on the price at which residential customers can purchase electricity. Typically, states set explicit cost caps relative to the retail price (as opposed to the lower wholesale price).
Washington’s RPS was enacted in 2006, and required any utility serving more than 25,000 to obtain 15% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020 (RCW 19.285.040) or spend at least four percent of its annual retail revenue on renewable energy premiums(RCW 19.285.050). Utilities can recover all “prudent” costs from ratepayers (this includes spending beyond 4% of revenue, which is why it does not affect the cost cap). In addition, the state requires utilities subject to the RPS to pursue all energy conservation that is cost-effective by January 2010. They must identify achievable potential through 2019, with reviews and updates every two years for ten years.
RPS Technical Details
|Eligible Technologies||Solar Thermal Electric, Photovoltaics, Wind, Biomass, Biodiesel, Landfill Gas, Anaerobic Digestion, Hydroelectric, Tidal Energy, Ocean Thermal, Geothermal Electric|
|Geographic Eligibility||For utilities serving out-of-state customers, a qualifying facility must be located in the state in which it services the customers (as found in RCW 19.285.030(12)(d)|
|Percent of Total Load||84.7%|
|Sectors||Investor-Owned Utilities, Municipal Utilities, Public Utility Districts, Rural Electric Cooperatives|
|Penalty||A qualifying utility that fails to comply with the conservation or energy targets must pay an administrative penalty of $50/MWh of shortfall. Starting in 2007, the amount is adjusted annually according to rate of change of the U.S. inflation indicator. Collections are deposited into the energy independence act special account.|
Tools and other links
- Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency (DSIRE) RPS data page—Datasets available for download in .xlsx format
- National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) Energy Analysis Portal—Resources on renewable energy policies, and interactive web tools
- Energy Information Administration (EIA) U.S. Energy Mapping System—An interactive energy resource map with a myriad of data layers to explore
DSIRE State RPS Page—Visit for detailed information
on RPS and complete legislation