A lot of positive change has been observed in a relatively short amount of time. Back in1997, stakeholders worked hard to help craft the first renewable energy standard in Massachusetts. The standard ultimately passed as part of an electric utility restructuring act.
It’s two decades later, and renewable energy has taken off in virtually every state in the United States.
Renewables on the Rise Report
Environment America released a new report and interactive map this month, taking stock of US clean energy progress to date. The report shows that leadership in clean energy is no longer concentrated in only select parts of the country. In fact, it is distributed across the states in varying economic and democratic makeups.
Rob Sargent, who currently leads the energy program at Environment America, commented, “You’re seeing an evolution that’s happening everywhere; and it will be interesting to see what will happen 10 years from now.”
Renewables on the Rise report highlights that the US now produces almost six times as much renewable electricity from solar and the wind as it did a decade ago, in 2008. Today, nine states in the US get over 20 percent of their electricity from renewables.
Growth of Solar Energy in the US
The United Stated set a record last year, by producing a record amount of solar energy. The country generated 39 times more solar energy than a decade ago. In 2008, solar added up to 0.05 percent of electricity in the US. However, by the end of 2017, solar generation reached > 2% of the electricity mix. To put this into perspective, this is enough to power 7 million average American homes.
Thanks (in large part) to improvements in energy efficiency, the average American uses almost 8 percent less energy today than a decade ago. Meanwhile, the US transportation fleet has also been seeing transformation. In 2017 for the first time in history, all-electric vehicles broke past 100,000 annual sales, with a total of 104,000 units sold. Not too long ago, in 2010, the number of electric vehicles on American roads were only in the hundreds, even including the plug-in hybrid vehicles. And now there are over 20 pure-electric models on the market, available in a wide range — from affordable commuter cars to ultra-fast luxury vehicles.
Future of Clean Energy
Overall, Sargent is optimistic about the future of clean energy in the US.
“There are very, very few places where someone adopts a clean energy policy and then says, ‘That was stupid; let’s get rid of it. Partly because once you do it at scale, it’s cheaper. Also because people see it and like it and want more of it — there’s growing public acceptance of it.”
According to him, the challenge is that, while clean energy is growing substantially in states across the nation, there will ultimately be a need for some kind of leadership at the federal level — which he believes doesn’t exist right now.
Sargent added, “It’s frustrating to have one foot on the accelerator and one on the brake. We’d go a lot faster if we weren’t doing that.”