Which Canadian provinces have a renewable portfolio standard?

Renewable portfolio standards are an effective and popular way of promoting the uptake of renewable energy in a region. Basically, they mandate that a certain portion of a jurisdiction’s electricity must come from renewable sources. But which provinces in Canada have a renewable portfolio standard?

The renewable portfolio standard (RPS) has been a common policy tool in the United States for some time now. Windy Iowa, in 1983, was the first state to introduce one. To date, about 29 US states have a RPS on the books.

What exactly is a renewable portfolio standard?

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory defines a renewable portfolio standard as “…[a] regulatory mandate to increase production of energy from renewable sources such as wind, solar, biomass and other alternatives to fossil and nuclear electric generation.” Once legislated, the RPS sets the low bar for how much of a state’s electricity must come from renewables—either as a percentage or number of megawatts. There is a lot of breadth and dept as to how renewable portfolio standards are set up, just take a look at this chart for proof.

Some states, such as Hawaii and California are exceptionally ambitious, with each state calling for 100% and 50% renewable electricity by 2050 and 2030, respectively. Other states, such as Arizona, which calls for 15% by 2025, have more pedestrian targets.

In some cases, a government will have different targets for different types of utilities: Colorado stipulates that 30% of electricity produced by investor-owned utilities must be RE, while municipalities and co-operatives have laxer targets of 10-20% from renewable sources.

Other states have different ways of classifying renewable energy and some states have varying targets depending on the technology.

Why are renewable portfolio standards important?

While carbon pricing is the most economically efficient way to level the playing field, price fossil fuels appropriately, and foster a market incentive to drive the adoption of renewables, there are a few challenges associated with adopting them. Economists love carbon pricing, and they can be designed to be equitable while imposing a minimal drag on GDP, but the problem is that politicians won’t implement them on the scale we need to combat climate change.

Mark Jaccard, writing in Policy Options, has noted that for Canada to even reach the former Harper government’s emissions reduction targets of 30% by 2030, we will need a national carbon price of $30/tonne by 2017 that ratchets up to $160/tonne by 2030. That’s a tall order for policy-makers and Jaccard continues to say that targeted regulations—such as a zero-emission vehicle mandate, like California has adopted—are necessary to bridge the gap.

Enter the renewable portfolio standard: these mandates lay out a very clear course for electricity generation. According to the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, renewable portfolio standards are responsible for 60 percent of the growth in non-hydro renewable in the United States. Quite a track record for spurring adoption rates.

Which Canadian Provinces Have Renewable Portfolio Standards?

Canada’s grid is pretty clean by world standards: two thirds of our electrical power comes from renewable sources, largely hydropower, and we’re already a top five generator of renewable electricity in the world. That said, quite a few Canadian provinces have a renewable electricity mandate.

List of Canadian provinces with a renewable portfolio standard:

For provinces without a RPS, I’ve noted if they have an exceptional amount of their power coming from renewable sources.

Images (Flickr): urbanworkbench

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