Brilliance from Sea to Shining Sea: Which States are the Clean Energy Superstars?

July 17, 2014 | 2:56 pm
John Rogers
Energy Campaign Analytic Lead

A great new report from the smart folks at CleanEdge looks in depth at which states are leading the clean energy charge in the United States. And, given the many ways to look at, the list of clean energy superstars is long. Here are eight slices from their analysis.

The Clean Energy Technology Leaders

Technology is one way to think about leadership—who’s getting what built, and how far out in front some states are.

Renewable electricity generation – How much of states’ electricity production comes from utility-scale wind, solar, and geothermal? The answer is more than 25 percent, in the case of leaders Iowa and South Dakota, and more than 15 percent for several others.

Source: 2014 U.S. Clean Tech Leadership Index, Clean Edge, Inc.

These numbers look at in-state generation vs. in-state demand. Also important, but not captured here, is the work states are doing to drive development of renewable energy outside their borders, for import, and to get solar on roofs (think California, for example). (Source: 2014 U.S. Clean Tech Leadership Index, Clean Edge, Inc.)

Renewable electric capacity – When it comes to getting renewable energy hardware in the ground, the leaders are up to some seriously high percentages of overall electric power capacity.

  • Wind – Iowa is first in the nation when we’re talking about political caucuses and also, it turns out, wind power. Its flocks of graceful wind turbines add up to a third of Iowa’s overall electric capacity. For North Dakota, it’s a quarter, and for Kansas, Oregon, and Idaho, it’s around one fifth.
Source: 2014 U.S. Clean Tech Leadership Index, Clean Edge, Inc.

Source: 2014 U.S. Clean Tech Leadership Index, Clean Edge, Inc.

  • Solar – Hawaii is number one in solar, with 13 percent of its installed electric capacity being sun-driven. California, the leader in the total capacity race, is number two, percentage-wise. New Jersey, Arizona, and Nevada follow. Notably, the next ones are two New England states, Vermont and Massachusetts.
Source: 2014 U.S. Clean Tech Leadership Index, Clean Edge, Inc.

Source: 2014 U.S. Clean Tech Leadership Index, Clean Edge, Inc.

Who’s Leading in Clean Energy Policy

Clean Edge’s analysis also dives into policy—who’s doing what with sticks and carrots (regulations, mandates, and incentives). The analysis considers almost three dozen categories, from renewable electricity standards and energy efficiency standards to grants, loans, and bonds.

And who are the superstars, policy-wise? Massachusetts is number one, followed by California, New York, Illinois, and New Mexico. That matches ACEEE’s assessment of Massachusetts when it comes to energy efficiency policy, in which the Bay State has won the top spot three years in a row (California had been the reigning champ before then). And both are leaders when it comes to clean energy for driving jobs and cutting carbon.

The report also looks at a range of technology and policy metrics in electricity, efficiency, carbon, and transportation. For example:

  • Transportation (hybrid electric vehicle sales) – California leads the way, with almost 18,000 HEVs per one million people (a total of almost 700,000 vehicles), followed by Oregon, Washington, and Vermont.
  • Buildings (LEED-certified) – Colorado, Vermont, Oregon, and Washington each have at least 100 LEED-certified projects per one million people.
  • Capital (clean-tech investment, plus development of “human and intellectual capital”) – Massachusetts leads the pack, Clean Edge says, with the highest clean energy venture capital per capita. California is number one in total capital, and in 2013 clean energy patents.

And the report offers great information about cities that are leading the way. (Hint: Think San Francisco, San Jose, and San Diego.)

The Envelope, Please

So, lots of leaders across the country. And the overall winners of the 2014 CleanEdge U.S. Clean Tech Leadership Index? California handily claims the top spot, again. Massachusetts is solidly in second place (also again). And Oregon just edges out Colorado for #3. The remaining top-ten spots were earned by New York, New Mexico, Washington, Illinois, Vermont, and Connecticut.

Source: 2014 U.S. Clean Tech Leadership Index, Clean Edge, Inc.

Source: 2014 U.S. Clean Tech Leadership Index, Clean Edge, Inc.

Applause! (Then Let’s Get Back to Work.)

Hats off, then, to the clean energy superstars among the states. Their leadership serves us all; as CleanTechnica’s coverage of the report puts it, this rising tide is really lifting all boats.

It seems it’s hard not to soar like an eagle when you’re surrounded by, well, soaring eagles. Let’s keep flying.

About the author

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John Rogers is energy campaign analytic lead at the Union of Concerned Scientists with expertise in clean energy technologies and policies and a focus on solar, wind, and natural gas. He co-managed the UCS-led Energy and Water in a Warming World Initiative, a multi-year program aimed at raising awareness of the energy-water connection, particularly in the context of climate change, and motivating and informing effective low-carbon and low-water energy solutions.