Clean Energy Leaders Emerge in New State-by-State Report

GOLDEN, Colorado, November 23, 2009 (ENS) – Renewable energy development is spreading across the country, often linked with public policies designed to encourage its growth, finds a new state-by-state analysis by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

The report tracks the progress of renewable energy development within the states to 2007, as well as the policies and support mechanisms implemented to encourage this development. Renewable resources supplied 8.5 percent of the total electricity generation in 2007, and hydroelectric generation continues to represent the largest portion at 70 percent.

By 2007, 24 of the 50 states were generating at least one gigawatt of renewable electricity from non-hydro sources, according to the 2009 NREL State of the States report.

Campo Band of Mission Indians of the Kumeyaay Nation wind farm in California (Photo courtesy NREL)

California led the nation in terms of total non-hydroelectric renewable generation in 2007.

South Dakota ranked first in overall growth in non-hydro renewable energy generation between 2001 and 2007.

Washington led in total renewable generation in 2007 if hydroelectric resources are included.

Maine is number one when also considering state population and gross state product.

“This is the only report that looks at data from every state and attempts to quantify the links between renewable energy development and policy implementation,” said Joyce McLaren, the NREL senior energy analyst who led the report team.

Wind energy accounted for the largest percentage of nationwide growth in renewable generation between 2001 and 2007, including a 30 percent increase in 2006 and 2007.

Leading wind energy states were Texas, California, Iowa, Minnesota, and Washington, the report shows. Sparsely populated Wyoming leds in per-capita wind generation.

“Of course, it’s interesting to know where and how much wind energy is being produced, but knowing that alone isn’t going to help move you forward,” McLaren said. “This report tries to identify how states are moving forward and which mechanisms are the most effective and efficient.”

All but 14 U.S. states now have adopted renewable energy portfolio standards or goals, the report finds.

And, all but seven states have net-metering policies in place, which allow customers who generate their own electricity to send surplus power back to the grid and have it subtracted from their retail electricity use.

State policymakers who commented on the analysis in its draft stages said they were impressed by breadth and scope of the final report. Knowing what is taking place beyond your own state’s borders can be influential, they said.

“In recent years, our energy committee has been dealing with questions that are hyper-local, such as whether we should consider including wood from construction and demolition as a renewable resource for purposes of our renewable portfolio standard,” said Kevin McCarthy, principal analyst for the Connecticut General Assembly’s Office of Legislative Research.

“This report puts much more information at our fingertips and allows us to take a much broader view,” he said.

Chart of national energy use as of 2007. (Graphic courtesy NREL)

Geothermal electricity generation in the Lower 48 is concentrated in California, Nevada and Utah, while solar capacity is concentrated in the southwestern and northeastern states, the report finds.

Biomass power generation continued to expand across most regions, with states as different as Delaware, Utah, Minnesota and Alaska showing the most recent growth in the sector. Biomass generation continued to be strong in southeastern states, including Georgia, Alabama and Florida.

More renewable energy has been developed in states that require utilities both to disclose their fuel mix and offer customers the option to purchase electricity produced with renewable fuels.

States that have a renewable portfolio standard appear to be generating more clean wind energy the longer the RPS has been in effect.

States that implemented net-metering legislation in 2005 had more renewable energy generation by 2007 than states without such a policy.

“It’s when we see the same thing every year for three or four years that we can be confident in the result,” McLaren said. “As the renewable energy field continues to develop, connections between policy and the ensuing development will only become more evident.”

Non-hydro renewable electricity generation as a percent of total electricity generation increased 33.7 percent between 2001 and 2007, reaching a national total of 105 million megawatt-hours.

The 212-page report contains 101 charts dissecting major renewable energy technologies and policies, as well as an extensive appendix listing clean energy resources. While the report provides state-by-state comparisons, NREL authors said the report is not intended as a renewable energy scorecard.

The State of the States project was developed by the U.S. Department of Energy, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy. It is funded by the Department of Energy’s office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

Click here to download the report, “State of the States 2009: Renewable Energy Development and the Role of Policy.”

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