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State of Clean Energy Commitments: Different Measures Across U.S. States

Inside Climate News

As clean energy continues to take a hold in the U.S. federal political landscape-- whether through debates about the Green New Deal or via 2020 Presidential candidates touting their clean power & climate change credentials-- it's important to recognize that, to date, a large part (if not majority) of clean power progress in the United States has taken place at the state level. While no federal climate legislation has been passed and the United States spurns international climate agreements, the past decade has seen an increasing number of states making clean energy commitments, setting aggressive climate change goals, and implementing effective changes on a more micro level that has kept U.S. clean energy progress alive amid partisan & political gridlock in Washington DC. 

Given those issues, looking at a few different measures of where states across the country land on these commitments and efforts is an eye-opening and worthwhile exercise:


State Renewable Portfolio Standards and Goals

A great resource that gets periodically updated on various state efforts toward the clean energy transition is the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), and specifically their appendix of state renewable portfolio standards and goals. As noted in on this page, states have been quite active in recent years in revising existing Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) as well as updating existing RPS levels. Research shows that these policies play a key role in helping states diversify their energy mix and integrate renewable energy-- with roughly half of U.S. renewable generation added since 2000 attributed to such requirements. 

I'd recommend checking out this website to see the expansive list of states/territories with RPS or voluntary renewable energy targets, as well as outlining the exact percentage required, the deadlines, the market and policy mechanisms used, and more. Most satisfying, though, is the handy map they provide that continues to see green fill in through out the country:

Stepping Up the Commitment to 100%

These RPS plans have been around since the turn of the century and have been crucial, but the more recent trend across state legislatures is to make the commitment complete: 100% clean energy bills being debated and passed with regularity across the country. Such commitments would not be possible without the groundwork in the technology, markets, and political landscape that the RPS trend previously laid, but now many progressive states are taking it to the next level. As this article from earlier this month notes, Washington state recently committed to be the next state to put 100% clean energy mandated on their books. The Washington law signed into state by climate-focused Presidential Candidate Governor Inslee requires 100% of the state's electricity to come from clean energy sources by 2045. Notable in this commitment is that the language of clean energy, rather than exclusively renewable energy, allows for nuclear to make the cut as a carbon-free generation source. This nuance varies among the pack of states who have made or are considering 100% commitments (e.g., Minnesota and New York legislation being debated is using clean energy language, while Illinois and Maine are debating 100% renewable energy), and the trend of what language is used will be a key one to watch.

Five states or territories have commited to 100 percent clean electricity

Results Across the Country: 1 in 5 Live in Places Committed to 100% Clean Energy

While counting the states and legislatures that are moving forward, or have completed, clean energy requirements is important, this recent article puts it all in proper perspective: After Washington state pledged to have it's electricity sector go carbon neutral by 2030 it means that between WA, NV, NM, CA, HI, DR, and Puerto Rico, one in five U.S. residents live in a region committed to 100% clean power. Of course, that number is dominated by California's population, but it goes to show how high impact the early commitments have been and will hopefully reflect the start of a domino effect to continue across the rest of the country. Again, similar measures are already pending in IL, MN, NY, NJ, VA, FL, and MA (not to mention the bevy of cities who have made commitments outside of the state government), meaning the states are truly picking up where the federal government is falling short. 

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee

Matt Chester's picture

Thank Matt for the Post!

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