America's Clean Energy Stars: State Actions Leading America to a New Energy Future

Released by: Environment California Research & Policy Center

Executive Summary

States are leading the way toward a new energy future that is healthier for the environment and America’s economy. Over the past decade, states have enacted a variety of policies to encourage more efficient use of energy, increase the use of clean renewable energy, and reduce the environmental impact of energy use.

This report highlights state action in five areas of clean energy policy and the benefits of those actions. We give special recognition to a number of states that are providing clean energy leadership for America. State clean energy policies are delivering important benefits for America’s environment and our economy.

States have adopted many innovative policies to promote clean energy. Among the most significant of those policies are renewable electricity standards, the Clean Cars Program, energy efficiency standards and programs, energy efficiency standards for appliances, and building energy codes.

Renewable electricity standards

Renewable electricity standards (RES) require that states increase their use of clean renewable energy from the wind, sun, crops and other sources. RES policies

have been adopted by 25 states and the District of Columbia. Those policies will, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists:

• Reduce global warming pollution by approximately 134 million metric tons per year by 2020 – about 2 percent of U.S. carbon dioxide emissions in 2006 or the equivalent of taking more than 21 million cars off the road.

• Result in approximately 55,700 megawatts of new renewable generating capacity in 2020, representing more than 5 percent of America’s total electricity generating capacity in 2005.
The Clean Cars Program

The Clean Cars Program sets strong limits on emissions of smog-forming and toxic pollution from cars and light trucks, as well as emissions of pollutants that cause global warming. In addition, the program requires the sale of increasing numbers of advanced-technology vehicles like hybrids. The Clean Cars Program has been adopted in 12 states and adoption is pending in three others.

The program will:

• Reduce global warming emissions from cars and light trucks by approximately 74 million metric tons per year by 2020 – a little over 1 percent of U.S. emissions in 2006 and the equivalent of taking 13.6 million cars off the road.

• Reduce gasoline consumption by up to 8.3 billion gallons per year.

Energy efficiency programs and standards

States have taken a variety of approaches to tap their vast potential for energy efficiency improvements. If every state were to achieve the energy savings already achieved by the most effective such programs:

• The United States could reduce electricity consumption by about 8 percent compared to business-as usual levels in 2020.

• The United States could avert 265 million metric tons of carbon dioxide pollution in 2020 (assuming that electricity savings bring about proportional reductions in carbon dioxide emissions from power plants).

This amounts to approximately 4 percent of current U.S. carbon dioxide emissions or the equivalent of taking nearly 49 million cars off the road.
• Energy savings well beyond these levels are likely to be feasible and cost-effective. If the United States can use energy efficiency to keep electricity consumption at current levels, the nation could avoid as much as 530 million metric tons of carbon dioxide pollution annually by 2020.

Appliance efficiency standards

State appliance efficiency standards ensure that the latest, most energy-efficient technologies are included in the products purchased by American families and businesses.

Since 2002, 12 states have adopted energy efficiency standards for a variety of appliances, leading the federal government to adopt nationwide standards for some of those products. Combined, the state and federal standards will:

• Reduce carbon dioxide emissions by approximately 64 million metric tons – about 1 percent of total U.S. emissions in 2006 and the equivalent of taking nearly 12 million cars off the road.
• Reduce electricity consumption by more than 84 million megawatthours per year, approximately 2 percent of U.S. electricity consumption in 2005 or enough to power 7.4 million American homes.

Building energy codes

Building energy codes set energy efficiency criteria for residential and commercial buildings, helping to prevent energy waste in buildings. The most up-to-date residential building energy codes have been adopted by 14 states, while the latest commercial codes have been adopted by 17 states. According to the Alliance to Save Energy, if every state adopted current energy codes for residential and commercial structures, regularly updated them, improved enforcement, and expanded the number of structures covered by codes:

• The United States could reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 50 million metric tons per year by 2020 – about 0.8 percent of total U.S. emissions in 2006 and the equivalent of taking 9 million cars off the road.

 • The United States could eliminate the need for 32 new 400-MW power plants.

At least 34 states have adopted meaningful clean energy policies in one of the five categories addressed in this report. Of those states:

Seven states – California, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island and Washington – receive recognition as “gold star” clean energy states for adopting strong policies in at least four of these areas.

Five states – Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, Pennsylvania and Vermont – are “silver star” clean energy states for adopting strong policies in at least two areas and meaningful policies in one to two others.

Nine states – Arizona, Colorado, Delaware, Illinois, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico and Wisconsin – are designated “rising star” clean energy states in recognition of their strong recent actions to promote energy efficiency and the use of renewable sources of energy.

All states, as well as the federal government, can do more to take advantage of America’s clean energy potential.

• Gold star states should continue to innovate by looking for new opportunities to reduce energy use, strengthen building codes and appliance standards, promote renewable energy, and lower global warming emissions from cars. Gold star statesmust also work to ensure that their ambitious goals for clean energy development are actually met.

• Silver star and rising star states should adopt the full complement of clean energy policies described in this report and strengthen the policies they already have on the books.

• Other states should follow the example of the clean energy leaders highlighted in this report and adopt strong clean energy policies in each of these five areas.

• The federal government should adopt nationwide clean energy policies that build off of the leadership and example set by the states. Those policies should include:

• Increasing federal fuel economy standards to 40 miles per gallon by 2018, achieving energy savings and global warming pollution reductions surpassing those of the Clean Cars Program.

 • Adopting a federal renewable electricity standard that requires 25 percent of the nation’s electricity to come from renewable sources by 2025.

• Expanding and extending federal tax credits for energy efficient vehicles, buildings and appliances.

• Adopting new federal appliance efficiency standards and improving the process for adopting standards to maximize cost-effective energy savings.

• Encouraging and supporting the development of stronger residential and commercial building energy codes.

• Increasing federal investment in clean energy research and development.