Center for Law, Energy & the Environment Publications

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

2-2018

Abstract

There is increasing awareness today of the importance of state level policies regarding renewable energy and climate change. The focus, however, has generally been on states such as California that are considered to be on the forefront of addressing these issues, and not on states where progress has been slower or stalled. This report attempts to present a fuller picture, taking into account policy developments in all fifty states. Geography and politics are obvious factors in explaining differences between states’ renewable energy and climate policies. States with strong wind resources are naturally more likely to develop wind; major coal producing states are less likely to pursue renewables. On the whole, Democrats are much more likely than Republicans to be concerned about climate change, and this necessarily impacts policy. Nevertheless, geography and politics do not provide complete explanations. A national survey reveals that a shift toward renewable energy is underway in many states as coal gives ground to newer technologies. The states that explicitly connect renewables with broader climate policies are concentrated on the coasts, as expected, but there are significant efforts in some inland states as well. More strikingly, renewable energy has gained considerable ground in some states such as Texas and Kansas, where government is in the hands of conservative Republicans. Republican governors in other states, both conservatives and moderates, have provided support for expanding renewable energy or resisted legislative rollbacks. Even states like South Carolina have begun to see some early signs of change. In these states, energy economics and user preferences, rather than the environment, are driving forces. Finally, this research reveals the extent of the diversity of state energy mixes. States have different renewable-energy potentials due to geography, transmission and other factors; and even adjoining states sometimes have very different electricity-generation mixes for geographic and economic reasons. Expanding interstate markets – for electricity, renewable energy credits, and for carbon – have an important role to play. Where there is diversity, there are also potential gains from trade and integrated planning

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