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From RPS to Carbon: An Evolutionary Proposal

September 2020

Citation: ELR 10765

Author: C. Baird Brown and Robert B. McKinstry Jr.

Renewable portfolio standards (RPS) and their accompanying renewable energy credits have been adopted by 38 states and the District of Columbia. This Article argues that they have outlived their usefulness, and proposes a transition to a “carbon reduction standard” (CRS) based on a statewide target for the average carbon emissions per megawatt hour of electricity generation. It describes in detail how a CRS would work, how it aligns with changing policy goals, and how it would take advantage of RPS lessons learned. Such a transition would avoid the unintended adverse consequences of RPS and better align the policy mechanism with the underlying environmental protection goals, particularly the goal of avoiding climate disruption.

C. Baird Brown is the Principal of eco(n)law LLC. Robert B. McKinstry Jr. is the principal of Environmental and Climate Law & Consulting, a retired partner from Ballard Spahr, LLC, and a fellow of the American College of Environmental Lawyers and the American Bar Foundation.

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