By - Jim Vess

A third of U.S. population lives in jurisdictions with 100 percent clean energy laws or goals

Energize Weekly, November 20, 2019

While federal clean energy policy has stalled, local governments are pushing forward, and more than a third of the U.S. population lives in jurisdictions – states, districts, territories, counties and cities – with 100 percent clean electricity goals.

“A growing number of cities are choosing to transition to 100 percent clean energy – and dozens have already hit that target – while the list of states committed to a 100 percent renewable energy future also continues to grow,” according to a report from the Luskin Center for Innovation at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Ten states – California, Washington, Nevada, New Mexico, Illinois, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Maine and Virginia – have clean energy laws or mandates. The District of Columbia and Puerto Rico also have 100 percent clean energy goals.

Another 18 states have sent renewable energy targets – including Florida, Massachusetts, Texas, Minnesota and Oregon.

Some of the state and territory plans, such as those of Hawaii and Puerto Rico, have a focus on resiliency. The report notes both are islands facing high costs for imported fuels, which has led to a greater emphasis on energy efficiency and storage.

Other states, such as Illinois, Maine and Nevada, see their initiatives promoting job growth and economic development.

The New Mexico and Washington state laws include provisions for transition aid to utility workers affected by fossil fuel plant closures.

There are also 200 cities and counties with commitments to have 100 percent clean electricity. When all the programs are combined, there are 111 million people, 34 percent of the country’s population, living in places with some type of clean energy commitment.

“Most striking is that 70 cities and counties across seven states are already powered by 100 percent clean electricity sources such as wind and solar power,” according to the Luskin Center report. “Their success provides important lessons for reaching clean energy and GHG [greenhouse gas] reduction targets on a larger scale.”

How these commitments have been made varies. Seven state plus Puerto Ricco and Washington, D.C., have passed clean energy laws. The first state to adopt the 100 percent clean energy law was Hawaii, followed by California.

In four states – New Jersey, Virginia, Wisconsin and Connecticut – gubernatorial executive orders set the 100 percent clean energy standard.

“Executive orders that contain a mandate can be binding, but executive orders also can be overturned by a succeeding governor,” the report said.

The time frame for meeting these goals varies from 2023 to 2050. Washington, D.C., has the earliest target date to reach 100 percent clean energy – 2023. The rest range from 2040 to 2050, though state clean energy laws include interim targets.

In addition to government clean energy policies, six utilities have set their own clean energy or carbon-neutral goals. The carbon-neutral option allows the flexibility of adopting new technologies such as carbon capture from fossil fuel plants or nuclear energy.

This group includes Avista, serving Idaho, Washington and Oregon; Duke Energy, serving five Midwest and Southern states; Xcel Energy, serving eight states from Minnesota to Texas; Idaho Power; Public Service Company of New Mexico; and Vermont’s Green Mountain Power.

Utilities are also partnering with towns and cities seeking clean electricity. “In Colorado, where several cities with 100 percent clean energy targets, including Breckenridge, Denver, and Nederland, have entered into memorandums of understanding with their electricity provider, Xcel Energy, to help them meet their goals,” the report said.

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