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States take the lead and move to clean energy

States are taking the lead in a move to clean energy while the Federal Government dithers. This situation is not surprising given the current administration’s chaotic retreat from the battlefield during the COVID-19 crisis. Hard decisions and firm leadership are not the forte of our current congressional and executive leaders in Washington, D.C.

Like California, states must lead in setting environmental standards for automobiles, even though the auto industry argues for higher standards and federal leadership. The federal trend is for lower environmental standards and denial of the oncoming climate crisis despite overwhelming scientific evidence outlining challenges the American people will face over the next 100 years.

States have stepped into the vacuum created by federal inaction and set realistic targets that move towards lowering or eliminating fossil fuel emissions. Switching electric power generation plants to clean primary energy sources is a critical part of meeting these targets. 

The targets

Fifteen states plus Washington D.C and Puerto Rico have commitments to obtain at least 50 percent of their electricity from clean sources. Fourteen of the commitments are for 100 percent clean energy, and these commitments alter between legislated targets and goals set via executive decree. A list of committed states and their targets is at the end of this article.

These state commitments are important because without them, the investments required to move to clean energy plants become too risky. A significant portion of the clean energy needed by states in fulfilling their goals comes from wind power, and in particular offshore wind-generated power. Analysts predict that the offshore wind market will be a $70 billion industry by 2030. Procuring the significant financial resources needed for these projects requires long-term assurance that a market for their electricity is available.

A strong relationship exists between offshore wind power, and states committed 100 percent clean energy, as shown on the map below. 

Map showing wind speeds at 262 feet above the earth’s surface. Purples and reds show the highest wind speeds, making the mid-continent and East Coast prime locations for harnessing wind power. (Source: NREL) (State Data Source: WRI)

Wind power: a crucial primary energy source

The U.S Energy Information Administration (EIA) divides renewable energy into five categories: biomass, hydropower, geothermal, wind, and solar. These all represent energy sources that are naturally replenishing, but this does not necessarily make them clean. Wood is part of the biomass category, and burning wood releases greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. However, clean energy does not release pollutants and carbon into the atmosphere. Hydro, wind, solar, and geothermal form a subset of renewable energy sources that classify as clean. But wind power is proving to be the rising star of clean energy.

Offshore Wind resources in the USA could generate twice as much energy as the country currently uses, and the AWEA estimates that the industry could create 83,000 jobs by 2030. But the key to unlocking this potential starts with long-range government plans to move to clean energy.

States committing to clean energy

(Source: WRI)

New Jersey50% by 2030 & 100% by 2050Law (2030) / Executive Order (2050)
Connecticut100% by 2040Executive Order
Virginia100% by 2050Executive Order
Wisconsin100% by 2050Executive Order
Colorado100% by 2050Law
New York50% by 2030 $ 100% by 2040Law
Maine100% by 2050Law
Nevada100% by 2050Law
Maryland50% by 2030Law
Washington100% by 2045Law
New Mexico100% by 2045Law
California50% by 2030 & 100% by 2045Law
Oregon50% by 2040Law
Vermont75% by 2032Law
Hawaii100% by 2045Law
District of Columbia100% by 2032Law
Puerto Rico100% by 2050Law


U.S. East Coast, a hot spot for clean energy (Source: ArcheanWeb) – https://archeanweb.com/2020/07/14/u-s-east-coast-a-hot-spot-for-clean-energy/  Also:

Offshore wind power: A bright future or a blight on golfers? (Source: ArcheanWeb) – https://archeanweb.com/2020/06/29/offshore-wind-power-a-bright-future-or-a-blight-on-golfers/  Also:

A Breezy Future: The Rise Of Wind Power (Source: ArcheanWeb) – https://archeanweb.com/2020/06/17/a-breezy-future-the-rise-of-wind-power/  Also:


2019 Was a Watershed Year for Clean Energy Commitments from U.S. States and Utilities (By Lori Bird and Tyler Clevenger; World Resources Institute) – https://www.wri.org/blog/2019/12/2019-was-watershed-year-clean-energy-commitments-us-states-and-utilities  Also:

Offshore Wind (Source: AWEA) – https://www.awea.org/policy-and-issues/u-s-offshore-wind  Also:

Feature Image: Clean Energy (Modified) – By Desmond1234 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=46866689  

William House
William is an earth scientist and writer with an interest in providing the science "backstory" for breaking environmental, earth science, and climate change news.