Plugging In Renewable Energy: Grading the States

A new report from the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) says the U.S. electricity system is dominated by fossil fuels resulting in a system that lacks diversity and security, threatens the health of citizens, jeopardizes the stability of the earth’s climate, and robs future generations of clean air, water and energy independence.

Cambridge, Massachusetts – June 24, 2003 [] The report assigns grades to each of the 50 states based on their commitment to supporting wind, solar and other renewable energy sources. The report measures commitment by the projected results of renewable electricity standards for electric companies and dedicated renewable electricity funds. Current state renewable energy generation is also considered. State renewable energy purchases, voluntary programs and unenforceable goals are discussed but not considered in the grading. The UCS also compares the total development realized from state commitments with federal legislative proposals and each state’s renewable energy potential. The analysis shows that 19 states have stepped in to fill a leadership vacuum at the federal level by taking important first steps toward developing a clean energy system. From their findings UCS concluded that: -A mere handful of states are responsible for most of the projected gains in renewable energy. California accounts for 44 percent of all projected new development; California and Texas together account for nearly 60 percent; and the top five states account for more than 80 percent. -Only California and Nevada received A- grades for enacting standards that increase renewable electricity sales by one percentage point per year for at least 10 years, while covering most state utilities. -Thirty-four states received failing grades of D or F for their lack of commitment to renewable electricity, with six qualifying for the UCS Hall of Shame. -Most states have only begun to tap their abundant renewable electricity potential. -Renewable energy generated through state standards and funds will significantly exceed voluntary purchases of renewable (or green) electricity, but fall far short of what a fair, cost-effective national standard could produce. The tremendous disparity in state programs and failing grades for 34 states illustrates the need for a national renewables standard. By setting a minimum requirement on which state standards and voluntary programs could build, a national standard would prove more equitable and lead to much higher, cost-effective levels of renewable electricity generation. Studies by the federal government and UCS have shown that a national standard of 20 percent by 2020 is feasible and affordable.

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