On June 29, 2022 Rhode Island Gov. Daniel McKee signed a bill into law that commits the state to procuring electricity from 100% renewable sources by 2033 — the fastest timeline of any state in the nation. Rhode Island is at least the tenth state to codify a commitment to 100% clean or renewable energy.
What led to Rhode Island’s commitment?
Rhode Island has a history of leadership when it comes to renewable energy innovation. The “Ocean State” is home to the first commercial offshore wind farm to operate in the United States. The Block Island Wind Farm, where turbines started spinning in 2016 showed America that harnessing the power of offshore wind is possible. Rhode Island’s offshore winds are powerful enough to produce eight times the amount of electricity demanded by the state’s people and buildings.
Public interest advocates, including RIPIRG and Environment Rhode Island have long worked to help Rhode Island harness clean energy.
In recent years, local environmental advocates worked with state leaders to bring about a commitment to 100% renewable energy.
In January 2020, then-Gov. Gina Raimondo signed an executive order with a goal of 100% renewable energy in the electricity sector and In the 2021 legislative session, legislation to codify that goal failed to pass both legislative chambers. This year, it passed.
National campaign reaches key milestone of 10 states committed to 100% clean or renewable electricity
Back in 2016, even our allies laughed at the idea of campaigning for 100% renewable energy. But we knew the public supported the vision and, as we showed in our 2016 report, We Have the Power, the availability of clean renewable energy wasn’t the thing holding us back. Rather, it was the power of our imaginations.
Since then, Environment America’s Campaign for 100% Renewable Energy has been committed to an unprecedented, bold vision: that the environmental community, the public and lawmakers could unite behind a shared goal of generating 100% of our energy from renewable sources.
And we got to work. Over the last four years, Environment America and its state groups have campaigned for commitments to 100% clean and renewable energy all across the country.
After Hawaii passed a 100% commitment, our state campaigns for 100% renewable energy commitments started in earnest in California. In 2018, Environment California enlisted the support of thousands of engaged citizens, hundreds of organizations, and dozens of lawmakers to win the symbolically named Senate Bill 100, a state-wide commitment to 100% zero-carbon energy by 2045.
California’s new law set off a wave of climate action in other states. In 2019, New Mexico and Washington signed similar bills into law. By mid-2021, nine states had enacted 100% legislation, including Maine, New York, Virginia, Oregon, and Illinois.
Now Rhode Island too has joined the 100% club.
State and local policy drives renewable innovation in America
When states set the goal to power their state with 100% clean renewable energy, it creates the space for clean energy to flourish. When a state passes a binding legislative commitment to reach 100% clean energy and puts in place the plan to get there, it sends a signal to companies and consumers that, in that state, clean renewable energy is the future. That gives everyone the confidence to lean in and invest, knowing that state leaders are committed to removing the barriers that stand in the way of clean energy’s success. That’s part of why goal-setting can have such a transformative impact.
And it’s working. State policy has driven innovation and scale, making renewable energy technologies like solar and wind cheaper and more efficient than ever before.
In 2001, America produced only one half of one percent of its electricity from renewable energy sources. But by 2021, more than 12% of electricity in the nation came from wind, solar, or geothermal energy.
Since starting the Campaign for 100% Renewable Energy, Environment America has worked to highlight a range of voices from across the country who share our goal of shifting to 100% renewable energy. To date, hundreds have joined this community.
For example, Michael D. Crain, a Fort Worth City Council Member, says “Repowering our lives and cities with 100% renewable energy is not only practical, it’s necessary. We have the technology and capacity to source energy from the sun and wind, power sources that don’t pollute the air or harm our communities. When you take stock of the benefits and drawbacks of a renewable energy transition, it becomes clear that clean energy is the future.”
More than 1 in 3 Americans lives in a place that has committed to 100% renewable power. With each state, city, and college campus that commits to 100% renewable energy, quality of life improves for American communities.
Environment America, our state organizations and other organizations in the Public Interest Network such as the Student PIRGs will continue efforts to urge state officials to make ambitious commitments to 100% renewable energy.
For example, PennEnvironment recently hosted a “lobby day” where citizens met with state lawmakers to ask them for a 100% renewable commitment.
“In 2018, we set a goal for ourselves of getting 10 states to make a legislative commitment to 100% clean or renewable energy by 2023. At the time it felt like a BHAG — a Big Hairy Audacious Goal, to borrow from business school lingo, designed to stretch the idea of what’s possible” said Johanna Neumann, Senior Director of Environment America’s Campaign for 100% Renewable Energy. “The fact that we’ve hit that goal 1 year early suggests that we can be even more ambitious in our goals to repower the world with energy sources that don’t pollute and never run out.”
Senior Director, Campaign for 100% Renewable Energy, Environment America
Johanna directs strategy and staff for Environment America's energy campaigns at the local, state and national level. In her prior positions, she led the campaign to ban smoking in all Maryland workplaces, helped stop the construction of a new nuclear reactor on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay and helped build the support necessary to pass the EmPOWER Maryland Act, which set a goal of reducing the state’s per capita electricity use by 15 percent. She also currently serves on the board of Community Action Works. Johanna lives in Amherst, Massachusetts, with her family, where she enjoys growing dahlias, biking and the occasional game of goaltimate.