Utilities, Cities, and States with Clean Energy Targets
In order for the United States to meet its climate goals and reach net-zero emissions by 2050, it must shift to carbon-free power as fast as possible. Federal efforts to clean up the grid are essential, which is why President Joe Biden’s American Jobs Plan includes a clean energy standard.
Already, states, major cities, and utilities have been doubling down on their commitments to clean energy. We’ve created an interactive dashboard to track these commitments and help identify important trends that could be expanded across the country. Three essential themes stand out to us:
- Clean energy commitments are rapidly gaining popularity. Our research identified a total of 182 portfolio standards and other commitments to clean energy since 1983. But a whopping 70% of these targets were adopted just since 2016.
- Climate leaders want more technology options to choose from. Prior to 2016, 87% of commitments were exclusive to renewable energy. That trend has since almost completely reversed, with 77% of states, utilities, and major cities now embracing “technology-inclusive” commitments like clean energy standards that take advantage of carbon-free options like nuclear power and carbon capture.
- Utilities, cities, and states have more climate ambition than ever. Before 2018, only about 16% of targets aimed for 100% clean or renewable energy. But beginning in 2018, 65% of commitments have targeted 100% clean or renewable power. Today, 19 states, plus the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico, are targeting full decarbonization of their power sector.
Climate ambition has spread across the country. Thirty-two states, as well as Washington, DC, and Puerto Rico, have set clean or renewable energy targets, as have 29 of the 50 most populated cities, and at least 65 electric utilities.
Communities across America are increasingly feeling the impacts of climate change and demanding rapid action. At the same time, governments and utilities are finally recognizing the challenge of reaching net-zero emissions in just a few decades using only renewable power. Incorporating all clean energy tools brings us closer to full decarbonization and significantly reduces the cost of getting there.
Play around with the dashboard below and see what patterns you can identify. If you have a hot take, we have also included shareable versions of each graphic below the dashboard that you can share on social media.
This interactive dashboard displays decarbonization and clean or renewable energy targets, announcements, and policies enacted by states, cities, and utilities.
- States: We included all state renewable portfolio standards and clean energy standards and renewable and clean energy targets. We only included updates to existing policies if they increased the overall stringency of the policy. We did not include zero emission credit policies for existing nuclear, credits or subsidies for other clean energy technologies, or carbon pricing policies.
- Cities: We included all cities that are among the 50 most populous and that have city-wide decarbonization or clean or renewable energy goals. We excluded cities that only had goals to decarbonize city-owned buildings.
- Utilities: We included all utilities that have official statements or commitments to decarbonize or increase their share of clean or renewable energy. We only included updates to existing policies if they increased the overall stringency of the policy.
The types of commitments have been divided into technology-inclusive or renewables-only categories. Technology-inclusive means that the commitment is open to all clean energy or zero carbon technologies. Renewables-only means that the commitment is only open to the select renewable resources defined by each state, city, or utility.
The types of commitments have also been divided into non-binding targets or binding commitments. Non-binding targets are aspirational goals, targets, pledges, or executive orders. Binding commitments are policies signed into law.
When unable to find the exact day that a commitment was made, we entered the first of that month.
For both maps, the color of a state is determined by its most ambitious and recent state level commitment — yellow for renewable-only and teal for technology-inclusive. To create the second map, we used the utility shapefiles from the Homeland Infrastructure Foundation-Level Data: Electric Retail Service Territories. The color of the utilities does not specify whether a utility is technology-inclusive or not.
Our research drew from Clean Air Task Force’s state and utility targets fact sheet, National Resources Defense Council’s blog on utilities, Sierra Club’s Ready for 100 Commitments, Center For Climate and Energy Solutions’ U.S. State Electricity Portfolio Standards Map, National Conference of State Legislatures’ State Renewable Portfolio Standards and Goals, North Carolina State University’s Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency, and Smart Electric Power Alliance’s Carbon Reduction Tracker.
The sources for each commitment can be found in the appendix.