Did State Renewable Portfolio Standards Induce Technical Change In Methane Mitigation in the U.S. Landfill Sector?

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2007-11-28

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Landfill gas (LFG) projects use the gas created from decomposing waste, which is approximately 49% methane, and substitute it for natural gas in engines, boilers, turbines, and other technologies to produce energy or heat. The projects are beneficial in terms of increased safety at the landfill, production of a cost-effective source of energy or heat, reduced odor, reduced air pollution emissions, and reduced greenhouse gas emissions. However, landfills sometimes face conflicting policy incentives. The theory of technical change shows that the diffusion of a technology or groups of technologies increases slowly in the beginning and then picks up speed as knowledge and better understanding of using the technology diffuses among potential users. Using duration analysis, data on energy prices, State and Federal policies related to landfill gas, renewable energy, and air pollution, as well as control data on landfill characteristics, I estimate the influence and direction of influence of renewable portfolio standards (RPS). The analysis found that RPS positively influences the diffusion of landfill gas technologies, encouraging landfills to consider electricity generation projects over direct sales of LFG to another facility. Energy price increases or increased revenues for a project are also critical. Barriers to diffusion include air emission permits in non-attainment areas and policies, such as net metering, which promote other renewables over LFG projects. Using the estimates from the diffusion equations, I analyze the potential influence of a Federal RPS as well as the potential interaction with a Federal, market based climate change policy, which will increase the revenue of a project through higher energy sale prices. My analysis shows that a market based climate change policy such as a cap-and-trade or carbon tax scheme would increase the number of landfill gas projects significantly more than a Federal RPS.

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