States can boost renewable energy capacity at bargain-basement prices, a new study finds.

Federal researchers examined the 29 states where renewable portfolio standards (RPS’s) have been in place for more than five years. They concluded that these standards, which require utilities to generate a certain percentage of power from clean sources, led to the development of 46,000 megawatts of renewable capacity up until 2012 — and that they raised electricity rates by an average of less than 2 percent.

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(If you’re wondering why California’s green line extends above and below the zero-cost line, it’s because the researchers used two different methodologies — one suggested that the state’s ambitious standard resulted in net costs, while the other suggested that it actually resulted in net savings.)

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The researchers, scientists at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, also examined other studies that have attempted to quantify the economic impacts of RPS policies: “A number of the studies examined economic development benefits annually or over the lifespan of the renewable energy projects, with benefits on the order of $1-$6 billion, or $22-30/MWh of renewable generation.” RPS’s can also help make electricity prices more stable, the researchers note.

And, as there’s more to life than electricity prices and economic development, it’s worth noting that RPS’s also contribute to water savings, cleaner air, and a more stable climate.

Nonetheless, renewable energy standards have been targeted by right-wing groups like American Legislative Exchange Council, which are pushing state legislatures to repeal them. The RPS foes are poised to score their first victory in Ohio. As Grist’s Eve Andrews wrote last week, Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) is expected to sign a bill that would freeze the state’s renewable-energy and energy-efficiency standards.

It’s not just enviros and climate hawks who are bemoaning that development. Honda, Whirlpool, and 49 other businesses operating in Ohio sent a letter to Kasich on Wednesday objecting to the move. “Freezing the standards for two years creates a start-stop effect that will confuse the marketplace, disrupt investment and reduce energy savings for customers during this period,” they wrote. “We expect the result will be higher electric bills and less investment.”

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