States lead on renewables throughout first half of 2021

Media Contacts
Emma Searson

Josh Chetwynd

New roundup highlights clean energy progress from the year’s legislative sessions to date

Environment America

DENVER — While federal leaders continue deliberations on how to build a cleaner, healthier future, states are making strides to advance renewable energy, according to a new roundup of state legislative highlights from Environment America. “The United States of Clean Energy, Summer 2021” summarizes clean energy progress and commitments made in spring and summer state legislative sessions across the country. 

The resource includes ambitious renewable energy and energy storage targets, investments in wind and solar, and strengthened energy efficiency standards. While there have been some instances of backsliding in these vital areas, the roundup found that the overall trajectory for clean energy is moving steadily in the right direction.

“Whenever I’m feeling pessimistic about the slow pace of change in the halls of our federal government, I look to the states,” said Environment America’s 100% Renewable Campaign Director Emma Searson. “In state capitals around the country, we’re seeing not just the steady march of progress, but a real race to the top when it comes to clean and renewable energy. State leaders are hearing Americans’ calls for energy that doesn’t pollute, and they are answering with action.”

Over the course of spring and summer legislative sessions, state lawmakers have built on a nationwide trend in setting ambitious clean and renewable energy goals. In July, Oregon became the eighth state to enact a commitment to 100 percent clean power, and now ties with New York for the fastest timeline to achieve that goal statewide. More incremental targets also continued to pick up steam. Massachusetts upped its renewable electricity requirements in March. Both Connecticut and Maine set new goals for growing energy storage, bringing the total of states with energy storage targets up to nine

“Goal-setting is a powerful force for change,” Searson said. “Setting enforceable goals for renewable energy gives our shared ambitions a concrete delivery date and puts in motion all of the steps that will ultimately turn those ambitions into reality.”

Since the start of 2021, states have also acted to directly support the adoption of wind, solar and energy efficiency technologies to clean up their power grids. California, for example, is investing millions of dollars to boost rooftop solar and offshore wind. Maine, Massachusetts and New Jersey are accelerating their offshore wind development. And, six states passed new energy efficiency measures since January, including programs that expand access to energy efficiency upgrades and strengthened efficiency standards for common household appliances. 

These state-level actions are proven tools for growing renewables and reducing air and climate pollution from fossil fuels. Environment America Research & Policy Center’s latest Renewables on the Rise report shows that state policies — from clean energy standards to ambitious solar programs — played a crucial role in increasing the nation’s share of renewable electricity more than 20-fold during the last 20 years. 

“What happens in the states has a real, meaningful impact on our lives and our environment,” said Searson. “Each new commitment and investment leads us one step closer to the cleaner, healthier future we want and need. And what happens in the states doesn’t just stay in the states — state leadership helps clear the path for nationwide action.”