Climate Week webinar: ‘Uniting States for 100% Renewable Energy’

Media Contacts
Johanna Neumann

Senior Director, Campaign for 100% Renewable Energy, Environment America Research & Policy Center

Experts, state officials celebrated increased adoption of clean energy in states, discussed what’s next

DENVER — Environment America Research & Policy Center brought together top researchers, state leaders and advocates Wednesday to discuss the role of states in America’s ongoing effort to harness renewable energy sources such as solar and wind — and generate electricity with their clean power rather than fossil fuels. Ten states have committed to phasing out dirty energy sources from their electricity mix after Rhode Island joined those ranks this summer. Beyond that, the clean energy tax credits in the new federal Inflation Reduction Act promise to turbocharge the adoption of clean energy.

“Renewable energy is on the rise across America thanks in large part to ambitious state goals and effective policies designed to achieve those goals,” said Johanna Neumann, senior director of Environment America Research & Policy Center’s Campaign for 100% Renewable Energy, who moderated the webinar. “The recently enacted federal tax credits will give many Americans added incentives to invest in solar, wind, batteries and electric vehicles. Given that stronger federal support, now is the time for state leaders to expedite and enhance their plans to transition to clean energy.”  

Rhode Island Gov. Dan McKee, who had been scheduled to speak, but was unable to attend, sent a statement saying: “As home to the nation’s first offshore wind farm, Rhode Island is a leader in the blue economy. This clean and reliable source of energy is vital for our state to meet its 100% renewable energy goal by 2033, as outlined in the Act on Climate, which I was proud to sign last year. Working together, a 100% renewable future is more than just ambitious, it is obtainable.”

The governor’s deputy chief of staff, Pastor Chris Abhulime, appeared in his stead. Abhulime reiterated that Rhode Island is “investing boldly in the renewable energy space. The governor truly believes in a renewable energy future” and that the state’s executive and legislative branches are working together and with regional partners on progress.

On the panel, Tony Dutzik, the associate director and senior policy analyst for Frontier Group previewed top findings from Environment America Research & Policy Center’s and Frontier Group’s upcoming report Renewables on the Rise 2022. The report, due online October 6, will feature an interactive web interface where users can see how states rank on key renewable energy technologies (solar, wind, energy efficiency, electric vehicles and battery storage) and how those technologies have grown in each state over the past decade.

“America produces three times as much wind, solar and geothermal power as we did a decade ago, and in some states, the rate of growth is even faster,” said Dutzik. “The growth in clean energy documented in our report should inspire policymakers and advocates to strive for even more ambitious clean energy goals in the years ahead.”

Stanford Prof. Mark Jacobson, the director of the university’s atmosphere/energy program, said ideally, we would be using 80% renewable energy across sectors in 2030, and should strive for 100% renewable usage by 2035 rather than 2050, though political realities may get in the way.

”We should be pushing as fast as possible for a transition in all energy sectors,” said Jacobson. “We should not have any new gas… There’s no need for two sources of energy in a building.”

This summer, Jacobson’s home state set a goal for 25 GW of energy from offshore wind, and passed several clean energy bills, including one that accelerates California’s timeline for meeting its commitment to use 100% clean energy, another to phase out inefficient lighting, and another streamlining permitting for rooftop solar panels and other distributed energy resources. 

Environment California Research & Policy Center’s State Director Laura Deehan says this session’s action by state leaders is a good start but more work is needed. 

“California needs to rapidly increase renewable energy and decrease energy waste every year between now and the end of the decade,” said Deehan. “Time is of the essence. To prevent hotter heat waves, more severe droughts and fiercer wildfires, the world needs California’s clean energy leadership.”

“Reaching our renewable energy goals is essential to addressing our climate crisis,” added California State Sen. John Laird. “While we’ve set ambitious goals for the future, we must now focus on the present steps that will help us achieve those goals. That’s why I authored the Clean Energy, Jobs, and Affordability Act of 2022, and am now encouraging a renewables ‘Marshall Plan’ – so we can get where we intend on going.”

Adam Schultz, the lead for the Oregon Department of Energy’s Electricity & Markets Policy Group said sound data, analysis and engagement with diverse stakeholders are guiding his state toward its next moves.

“States are leading the way in adopting aggressive climate and clean energy policies. For states that have these policies in place, like Oregon, we are now pivoting to confront the scale of renewable energy development we are going to need to achieve these goals,” said Schultz

Back on the East Coast, Massachusetts is undergoing a renewable energy revolution as well.

“Environment Massachusetts Research & Policy Center launched a campaign this fall asking state officials to bring the equivalent of one million solar rooftops — 10 gigawatts of solar capacity — to Massachusetts by 2030,” said Ben Hellerstein, state director of Environment Massachusetts Research & Policy Center. “Solar power is clean, local and abundant, and it’s going to play a key role in our transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy.”

“The keys to a future powered by 100% percent renewable energy are within reach,” said Neumann. “Now is the time for states to grab the wheel and build out renewable energy; modernize the grid; reduce and manage energy use; and repower our economy to take full advantage of clean energy’s benefits.”