An Earth Day Salute to States Leading the Clean Energy Transition

April 20, 2017 | 12:00 am
Laura Wisland
Former contributor

Earth Day is Saturday. The annual event always inspires me to reflect on where the country has been and where it’s headed in terms of protecting the land, water, air, plants, and animals that share the planet with us humans.

In an age where basic environmental issues are becoming hyper-political, I am encouraged by a new analysis UCS released that proves just how much progress we’ve made across the country to lower pollution—both the kind that makes us sick and the kind that warms our atmosphere—by investing in electric vehicles, energy efficiency, and clean, renewable sources of electricity.

Wind power on the San Gorgonio Pass. Source: Flickr/Clark

The report looks at clean energy progress across all 50 states, and ranks them in terms of leadership on a number of policies and programs, including advancement of renewable energy and energy efficiency, jobs created in clean energy, and programs that limit greenhouse gas emissions.

Not surprisingly, California earned the top spot overall by performing well in a number of categories that were analyzed, including placing first on electric vehicle adoption and second on the amount of residential rooftop solar per capita. It also ranked high on other metrics, such as electricity savings, clean energy jobs per capita, and the strength of its renewable energy and global warming emissions policies.

Following California were Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Hawaii, Oregon, Maine, Washington, New York, and Iowa. Progress was so widespread that 35 states demonstrated enough clean-energy momentum to score in the top 10 in at least one metric, while 21 states scored in the top 10 in at least three categories.

While California’s leadership on renewable energy and energy efficiency already serve as a model for other states, the Golden State should not rest on its laurels. The state has a large economy—the sixth or seventh largest in the world depending on the year. Investments we make here ripple throughout the world. With so much at stake or stalled at the federal level, California will play an extremely important role in making sure clean energy momentum across the country does not lose ground.