No Longer a Novelty, Clean Energy Technologies Boom All Across the US
A new report documents the democratization of renewables, energy storage and electric vehicles in America.
It was 1997, and stakeholders were working hard to help craft the first renewable energy standard in the State of Massachusetts, which ultimately passed as part of an electric utility restructuring act. At that time, the notion that Massachusetts would be one of the top solar states in the country was almost laughable, recalls Rob Sargent, who currently leads the energy program at Environment America.
Today, renewable energy is taking off in virtually every state in the nation.
A new report and interactive map released this week by Environment America takes stock of U.S. clean energy progress to date. It finds that leadership is no longer concentrated in select parts of the country, but that it is distributed across states with varying economic and democratic makeups.
“You’re seeing an evolution that’s happening everywhere; and it will be interesting to see what will happen 10 years from now,” Sargent said.
The Renewables on the Rise report highlights how much has changed in a relatively short period of time, which can be easy to forget.
Today, the U.S. produces nearly six times as much renewable electricity from the sun and the wind as it did in 2008, and nine states now get more than 20 percent of their electricity from renewables.
Last year, the U.S. produced a record amount of solar power, generating 39 times more solar power than a decade ago. In 2008, solar produced 0.05 percent of electricity in the U.S. But by the end of 2017, solar generation reached more than 2 percent of the electricity mix — enough to power 7 million average American homes.
Wind has also seen dramatic growth over the last decade. From 2008 through 2017, American wind energy generation grew nearly fivefold. Last year, wind turbines produced 6.9 percent of America’s electricity, enough to power nearly 24 million homes. And the forecast shows even more growth as America’s offshore wind industry begins to take off.
Meanwhile, the average American uses nearly 8 percent less energy today than a decade ago, thanks in large part to energy efficiency improvements.
The U.S. transportation fleet is also transforming. Last year, all-electric vehicles broke past 100,000 annual sales for the first time, with 104,000 units sold. As recently as 2010, the number of EVs on American roads numbered in the hundreds, even including plug-in hybrid vehicles. Now there are more than 20 pure-electric models on the market, ranging from affordable commuter cars to ultra-fast luxury vehicles.
On the energy storage front, nine of the 10 states that have added the most battery storage capacity to date had zero utility-scale battery capacity in 2008. California, Illinois and Texas are among the battery storage state leaders. In one benchmarking development, a bid to build solar-plus-storage in Arizona beat out competing bids for new natural-gas peaker plants.
Environment America’s state-by-state breakdown offers a handy way to track clean energy deployments across the country. To view progress on solar, wind, electric vehicles and energy storage by state, explore the interactive map below.
The report leverages data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, the Auto Alliance and the Solar Energy Industries Association, among others.
Thanks to policies like the renewable portfolio standard Sargent and others helped to pass, the report shows Massachusetts saw 247-fold growth in solar generation over the last decade, with an increase from 10 gigawatt-hours in 2008 to 2,554 gigawatt-hours in 2017. Massachusetts is now a top 10 state for solar growth.
California is the clear U.S. solar leader, but solar market expansion isn’t limited to politically progressive states. Georgia, for instance, is also on the top 10 list. The Southern state produced just 1 gigawatt-hour of solar in 2008. A decade later, Georgia generated 2,364 gigawatt-hours of solar — just shy of the production in solar-incentive-friendly Massachusetts.