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Analysis: States' renewable mandates continue to grow; nine set 100% clean energy goals

Highlights

Ohio introduces bill to apply old RPS requirements

New Hampshire Legislature could overturn veto during 'Veto Day'

Utilities driving net-zero targets in US Southeast

Houston — US states continue to boost renewable energy goals, with Virginia and Colorado recently joining the growing number with 100% clean energy targets and multiple others, including Ohio and New Hampshire, in heated political battles over state energy needs.

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Across the US 38 states have some form of clean energy goal in place is states across the US, with nine states aiming for 100% by 2050. In regions where there is no state action utilities are stepping up net-zero emissions targets, such as major plays in the US Southeastern states.

New Hampshire RPS bill vetoed

The New Hampshire Legislature will have a chance in September to overturn Republican Governor Chris Sununu's veto of Senate Bill 124, which was introduced this session to increase the state's renewable energy portfolio goal to 56% by 2040.

If a bill is vetoed, it returns to the body where it originated, with a veto message, according to the New Hampshire government website. In order for the veto to be overturned it must have a two-thirds roll call vote in each body. It then becomes law without the governor's signature. Without the two-thirds affirmative vote in both bodies, the veto is upheld.

However, SB124 did not come close to the two-thirds supermajority needed to override a gubernatorial veto, making it unlikely that the RPS requirements will change anytime soon during a Sununu administration, said Matt Williams, analyst of emissions and clean energy at S&P Global Platts.

SB124 would increase the state's renewable energy portfolio goal to 56% by 2040. Currently, the state's goal is 25.2% renewables by 2025.

In late July, Sununu vetoed SB124, which he called "a direct handout to politically well-connected industries" that could cost ratepayers $300 million annually in new subsidies with more than $100 million funding solar developers' profits.

"There are fundamentally better ways to reduce emissions," Sununu said in his veto statement. "Earlier this year, I put forward a plan to boost renewable energy in the state without creating new subsidies or picking winners or losers in the energy sector. My plan, which was killed on party lines, was a responsible alternative to this bill's irrational approach to energy policy."

State Senator Martha Fuller Clark, SB124 sponsor, did not respond to a request for comment on the future of the bill.

"While the veto from Governor Sununu was expected, the situation in Ohio faces more uncertainty around what could happen to its RPS," Williams said.

Ohio RPS future uncertain

A new bill was introduced in the Ohio House of Representatives on July 29 that would repeal House Bill 6 and implement the old RPS requirements after some lawmakers called for the repeal and replacement of HB6 following a corruption scandal involving bribes allegedly paid to a state legislator related to the passage of the bill.

"However, it's a heavily Democratic bill," Williams said about the newly filed bill, adding it is not expected to pass.

HB6 reduces the state's overall RPS from 12.5 % by 2026 to 8.5% and effectively ends the standard after that year. The state's solar RPS program was killed after 2019.

"If the standards in place before HB6 became law were to be reinstated, the demand picture for PJM REC would become more fundamentally bullish," Williams said, adding Platts Analytics expects PJM Tier I non-solar REC demand to be over 11% higher by 2035 in a scenario where Ohio reverts to its previous RPS requirements. "However, with many lawmakers still supporting the underlying policy of HB 6, the current RPS could come out on the other end unscathed," Williams said.

Ohio House of Representatives Speaker Larry Householder was arrested July 21 by federal agents for to alleged involvement with a $60 million bribery case surrounding the passing of HB 6. Originally signed into law in July 2019, HB6 financially supports two nuclear plants (the 908-MW Davis-Besse and 1,268-MW Perry sites) and two Ohio Valley Electric Corporation coal plants (the 990-MW Kyger Creek and 1,200-MW Clifty Creek facilities), according to Platts Analytics.

Southeast utilities focus on net-zero goals

Virginia became the first state in the South to target 100% clean power when Gov. Ralph Northan signed the Virginia Clean Economy Act into law on April 13. The law requires 100% carbon-free energy by 2045, with Appalachian Power to be carbon-free by 2050, as well as the closure of all coal-fired plants by 2024.

South Carolina has a voluntary RPS and in 2018 renewable resources, including hydropower, biomass and solar energy, provided about 6% of the state's net generation, which achieves the RPS goal, according to EIA.

Although many states in the US Southeast do not have renewable portfolio standards, many of the large utilities in that region, including as Dominion, Duke Energy and Southern Company, have set their own net-zero emissions targets, which could achieve the same results.

Dominion aims to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

Duke aims to reduce its carbon emissions from the power side of its business at least 50% by 2030 from 2005 levels and achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.

Southern, the largest investor-owned utility in Georgia and the sole IOU in Alabama, aims to reduce its carbon emissions 50% by 2030 from 2007 levels and achieve net-zero carbon emissions in its operations by 2050.

SPP wind surge

Most of the states within the Southwest Power Pool footprint have RPS targets.

SPP added more than 1.4 GW of wind capacity in 2019 to total 22.5 GW installed wind capacity. With roughly 650 MW of wind generation added so far this year, more than 5 GW could be added by the end of this year, according to SPP data.

Wind-powered generation was the lead fuel source for the first six months of the year, surpassing coal and gas, which had long been of higher usage than wind power.

The increase in renewables has pulled down wholesale power prices, with SPP South Hub on-peak day-ahead location marginal prices averaging about $20/MWh so far this year, a drop of 29% from the annual average five years ago, according to SPP data.