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When it comes to the role of our 50 states in creating this great clean energy momentum, which ones do we have to thank? That’s what the new Clean Energy Momentum State Ranking from the Union of Concerned Scientists set out to discover. As for how to figure out who’s tops, that title says it all … if you just look at each piece.

Let’s break it down, build it up and see what we get. (And some of the answers just might surprise you.)

Gauging Leadership on Clean Energy Momentum

The map gives a sneak peek at the results from the new analysis.

And here’s how the pieces of the title come into play:

Clean energy. Our focus was the electricity sector, but that turns out to include a range of pieces, and it’s important to think about the multiple dimensions of “clean energy”:

  • Renewable energy—wind, solar, geothermal, hydroelectric and bioenergy—is an obvious component, but certainly not the only one.
  • Energy efficiency figures in strongly in terms of how we make progress: Doing more with every electron means needing less electricity from some of our dirtiest sources, and having our renewable electricity take us further.
  • Transportation electrification is an increasingly important piece of the power sector picture, and cleaning things up. For most U.S. drivers, electric vehicles (EVs) give strong environmental benefits. And those benefits are going to keep going up as the country’s electricity mix gets cleaner.

Our new analysis includes all three sectors.

Momentum. This is one of the things that’s unique about this analysis. We were interested in capturing not just where states are now, but also where they’ve come from recently, and where they’re headed.

Clean energy momentum covers “now” things like the renewable electricity fraction of a state’s generation, its electricity savings, its EV sales, and its clean energy jobs.

But it also includes the “where ya coming from?” piece, like how much a state’s renewables fraction has increased recently, and how much its power plant pollution has decreased.

And momentum in the clean energy space is about the “still to come” part—how much renewable energy is happening in the near future, and what kind of policies (for renewables, efficiency and carbon pollution, for example) will give clean energy oomph in the years to come.

Our analysis measures all that.

State. Why focus on the states when we need the federal government to be doing its thing? It’s clear that we need both.

States have been a powerful, positive force for progress on clean energy, through different political climates and different federal administrations. Given the uncertainty of leadership from Washington, DC (to put it mildly), we definitely need states to continue to lead in each of these areas, to keep the momentum going—and growing.

That’s why focusing our analysis on state performance made sense … not as the whole picture, but as a key part of the…

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