Is Use of Fossil Fuels for Electricity Generation Declining as Renewables become more Popular?
Professor Therese McCarty
Everyday, every person in the United States uses electricity. They use it to light their homes, businesses, and streets. Everyone is affected by the electricity that is generated. But what resources are used to generate it and why? Traditionally, fossil fuels are used. Fossil fuels are anything from coal to oil to natural gas. These resources make up the majority of electricity generated by utilities within most states. However, these fossil fuels can be detrimental to the environment.
Fossil fuels are not the only source of power. Renewable energy has become another source that is used widely throughout the U.S. How much electricity is generated within a state from each kind of renewable will, theoretically, have an effect on how much electricity is generated through fossil fuels. This thesis explores the factors that determine how much fossil fuel electricity is generated at the state level. In particular, the thesis focuses on the extent to which state-level policies aimed at the growth of renewable energy have an effect on generation of fossil fuel based electricity within the state.
Of course, other factors also play a role in the generation of electricity from fossil fuels. State GDP, state population, and average temperatures can also impact electricity generation. However, policies are particularly interesting. The reason that states are the unit of observation is because state level policies can affect fossil fuel electricity generation directly. However, at the state level, regulatory policies can extend the supply of generation. For example, Alabama passed a bill, AL HR 98, which allows for more advanced transmission technologies. This combats the deregulation of the transmission system and allows Alabama to have less costly, more efficient means of transmission. These newer means of transmission would lead to more power and electricity generation through renewables rather than through fossil fuels. Another example of policies that affect fossil fuel generation are Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS). These standards require utilities to ensure that a specified amount of electricity they sell comes from renewables. However, not all states have these standards. Some states do while other states have voluntary targets and some states have no standards at all. RPS presents a challenge within the variables, that is whether or not the state has an RPS, what year they adopted it, and what the target level and target year is.
Understanding what factors determine generation of electricity within a state is important because of the recent growth in the demand for rene