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States Set Clean Energy Goals

Updates on how individual states are achieving clean energy, the future of shelterbelts in rural America, networks for black community food security, and more.

| December 2019/January 2020

As polluting fossil fuels become more scarce and renewables become more cost competitive, a number of U.S. states, districts, and territories have taken a localized approach toward a sustainable energy future by decarbonizing their energy supplies ahead of federal mandates.

A handful of states have passed laws; others have set goals. According to online solar marketplace EnergySage, some states are reaching for “100 percent renewable energy,” or energy only from renewable sources, and others are pursuing “100 percent clean energy,” indicating their acceptance of non­renewable but carbon-free sources of power, such as nuclear. The deadlines for these policies vary from state to state, with most states aiming for the 2040 to 2050 range.

Chart by Carolyn Lang with information courtesy EnergySage

Hawaii was the first state to make headway on state-specific renewable energy goals, passing a bill in 2015 that mandates 100 percent renewable energy by 2045. In 2018, New Jersey’s governor issued an executive order for 100 percent clean energy by 2050. And in January 2019, Washington, D.C., did the same, committing to 100 percent renewable energy by 2032, the most ambitious target to date.

And that ambition is contagious. The Union of Concerned Scientists identifies the 2018 election season and rising bipartisan support of renewables as factors that pushed a slew of states and territories to follow suit in quick succession, with several of them passing laws or setting goals in 2019. For instance, Puerto Rico and Maine each passed a law committing to 100 percent renewable energy by 2050.

New York has passed a law pledging to use 100 percent clean energy by 2040; California, New Mexico, and Washington have done the same, with a target of 2045; and Nevada also aims to achieve 100 percent clean energy, with an end date of 2050.

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