State Renewable Mandates Falling Like Dominoes

States that have enacted renewable energy mandates in recent years are beginning to have buyer’s remorse. Last week, Kansas Governor Sam Brownback signed into law legislation repealing his state’s renewable energy mandate and replacing it with a voluntary goal. Kansas joins a growing chorus of states that have either repealed or frozen their renewable mandates.

Kansas’ decision to repeal their renewable energy mandate is important for several reasons: the vote was bipartisan, reflecting widespread discontent with the state’s energy mandate; Kansas is a major wind producing state; and the vote comes on the heels of other states that are similarly fed up with costly renewable mandates.

Kansas RPS Repeal: A Bipartisan Affair

In 2009, Kansas passed the Renewable Energy Standards Act, which requires utilities to generate 20 percent of their electricity from renewable sources in 2020. Renewable mandates were popular at the time, passing the state House by a vote of 103-18. But last week, lawmakers repealed the mandate they enacted just six years ago by an even wider bipartisan margin, 105-16.

The vote was not a symbolic gesture from a conservative state—Kansas is a huge wind producer, with the 9th most installed wind capacity in the nation. Rather, the Kansas vote reflects growing disillusion with the high costs and illusory benefits of renewable energy, notably wind and solar.

Consider a recent study from the Institute of Political Economy at Utah State University. Researchers found that Kansas’ RPS reduces incomes, increases energy costs, and destroys jobs:

  • “Ratepayers in Kansas will pay $171 million more than they would in the absence of RPS.
  • An average family in Kansas made $4,367 less in a single year due to RPS mandates.
  • There were 5,500 fewer jobs in Kansas at the end of 2014 than there would have been without RPS mandates.”

While RPS mandates impose enormous costs, they are also an expensive and inefficient way to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. The California Air Resources Board estimates that it costs $133 per ton to reduce carbon dioxide emissions through RPSs—that’s four times higher than even the Obama administration’s $33 per ton estimate of economic damages associated with CO2 emissions.

Momentum Growing for Repeal

Faced with huge costs and slim benefits, several states that have imposed RPS mandates are beginning to recognize the error of their ways. Below is a list of states that have taken recent action to curtail or eliminate their renewable mandates:

  • Last June, Ohio froze its RPS for two years and is now holding hearings to consider full repeal.
  • West Virginia repealed its “alternative energy standard” in January, becoming the first state in the country to repeal an enacted RPS. The repeal bill passed unanimously in the Senate and 95-4 in the House.
  • Texas, New Mexico and Colorado all passed bills to repeal or revise their RPS out of one chamber.
  • North Carolina is moving on legislation to freeze its renewable mandate.
  • On May 28, Kansas became the second state to repeal its mandate.


Many states enacted renewable energy mandates in recent years with the goal of reducing carbon dioxide emissions, creating jobs, and lowering utility bills. Just a few years later, states are realizing that the wind and solar lobbyists who made these promises sold them a bill of goods. These mandates raise household energy bills, destroy jobs, and do little to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. As RPS mandates continue to fail, even more states will realize that markets—not mandates—are the best path to energy prosperity.

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