My research question is: “Does having an enacted renewable portfolio standard (RPS) lower or raise the cost of energy statewide?”. Comparing states with RPS policies and those without will test change in my dependent variable. My independent variable will be states that have a mandatory minimum amount of power from solar as a percentage of total state consumption in their energy plans. My dependent variable will be the average cost statewide of solar energy per kilowatt-hour. I will evaluate data in an attempt to find changes in solar cost across different RPS polices.
I plan to use case studies as a way of evaluating performance of solar power by looking at different state energy plans. This allows for comparisons between states with similar characteristics. For choosing different regions I will carefully follow a set of control variables in order to limit possible disturbances to my findings. One of the most important aspects to consider when comparing different areas of the United States will be the efficiency of solar production. This value will shift up and down based on environmental factors. For example, heavy cloud cover causes a lack of sun exposure to photovoltaic cells and reduces daily energy production (Michigan being an example of this. These variables will have a strong influence on the statewide cost of solar power when comparing two states such as California and Michigan. Other control variables will include population, average income levels, economic performance and the presence or absence of solar incentives for individuals. All of these factors should be relevantly constant when competing RPS policies between states.
My data on state policies and solar energy prices will mainly come from the Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency (DSIRE), the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The NREL is the only federal laboratory dedicated to research, development, commercialization, and deployment of renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies. Paired with the EPA, these sources provide current data on solar adoption rates. The NCSL and the DSIRE focus specifically on state policies, supplying information on specific solar energy plans.
After studying literature on energy policy I hypothesize that states with a solar RPS will not have a strong effect on energy prices staewide. If correlation is found I expect it to be weak. Although a RPS promotes renewable energy development, I predict that progression in solar- voltaic cell technology and economic factors will be the largest determining variables for average solar price.