Kathy Jones is a consultant with ABB who has focused on energy markets, renewable and environmental issues for nearly two decades. Jones, who forecasts and analyzes the North American renewable market, talked about the continued rise of renewables in the wake of policy setbacks for wind and solar advocates. The following is edited for clarity and brevity.
EnerKnol: The Trump administration just pulled the U.S. out of the Paris climate accord, as well as scuttled or stalled several federal environmental rules, including the Clean Power Plan. How do you see these actions altering the growth of renewables in the U.S.?
Kathy Jones: I don’t feel that the Paris climate accord was a driving force for renewable growth. There was an expectation that the Clean Power Plan would generate “additional” growth but as seen by developers, utilities and states continue to pursue renewable development as well as a number of states are on target to meet the CPP with current actions.
EnerKnol: With a number of federal incentives for renewables in limbo or scrapped, to what extent can wind and solar developers rely on state Renewable Portfolio standards to propel additional growth?
Jones: A number of states such as Texas and Kansas have exceeded their RPS requirements and this has not slowed the expansion. The continued growth is more attributable to the competitive pricing of renewable generation in comparison to traditional gas-fired resources.
EnerKnol: What are states doing as they blow past their renewable targets?
Jones: Texas has taken no action whereas Kansas did make their RPS voluntary. California on the other hand reached 27% in 2016 and is on target to exceed 33% in 2017 much earlier than the RPS requirement mandates. Current legislation has been introduced to increase the California RPS to 100% by 2045. So states will vary on how they address dependent upon the climate appetite.
EnerKnol: Corporations are starting to buy up renewables. Is this just good PR, or does it really help their bottom line to boost procurement of renewable energy?
Jones: Corporate sustainability is definitely good PR for today’s “prosumers” (consume and produce electricity); but it is more than that. With the decline in purchased power agreements the procurement of renewable energy is the lowest-cost source. Also, from a financial perspective, rating agencies such as Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s have a carbon risk measurement evaluating your carbon footprint which could further impact your cost of doing business.