One out of five Americans lives in a state with a 50% renewable energy target, report finds

More than one-fifth of the US population lives in a state with a goal of at least 50% renewable energy, according to the Fourth Annual Energy Report released by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

According to this new report, entitled Accelerating into a Clean Energy Future, America’s transition to a clean energy economy is irrevocably underway and delivering deep pollution reductions, with coal use at record lows but renewable energy higher than ever.

The report noted: “The US is changing fundamentally across the energy sector, accelerating away from fossil fuels into a clean energy future. The trend, obvious for more than a decade, is a combined product of state and federal policy harmonised with potent economic forces.

“Coal-fired generation dropped to historic lows this year, producing only one-third of our electricity, while renewable energy generation reached record highs, with more than one-eighth of America’s electricity generated from solar panels, wind turbines, and other renewable resources.’”

‘A clean energy revolution is underway’

Ralph Cavanagh, co-director of the NRDC Energy Program and report co-author, said: “The nationwide momentum for pollution-free energy is undeniable and irresistible because clean energy now costs less than dirty energy. However, strong local, state, and federal policies are necessary for the US to remain competitive globally and ensure clean energy technology and employment surge to the highest possible levels here at home.”

Kala Viswanthan, co-author, added: “The past year in energy saw a number of victories for the environment, highlighted by a global climate agreement and a carbon pollution reduction plan for the US. A clean energy revolution is underway, decarbonizing the electric grid through carbon reduction targets, energy efficiency gains, and renewable energy additions.”

The NRDC report stated: “US helped achieve a successful agreement at the historic global climate negotiations in Paris at the Conference of the Parties 21 (COP 21). The accord included greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction targets for 195 nations after 2020, with the goal of avoiding the worst impacts of climate change … For the US, that means economy-wide cuts up to 28% below 2005 GHG emissions levels by 2025.

“As energy policy expert Michael Grunwald wrote shortly after the 2016 presidential election, ‘even if [the US were] to withdraw from the Paris climate deal, the US is on track to fulfill its pledges under that deal.’”

Polluting power plants

As the NRDC report shows, smarter energy use in people’s homes, buildings, and appliances reduces the need for dirty fuels and allows utilities to avoid building polluting power plants, lowering customer bills and emissions levels.

The US has also worked to reduce pollution from the transportation sector by improving vehicle efficiency through standards, advancing cleaner fuels, promoting electric vehicle use, and improving land use practices.

According to the report, oil consumption in 2015 was 12% below its 2005 peak. Primarily as a result of historically low coal use, energy efficiency gains, and soaring generation from solar and wind, 2015 marked a milestone in modern US history: carbon dioxide emissions from electric generation dropped below those of the entire transportation sector for half of the year.

To continue the nation’s clean energy progress, the NRDC report urges the following:

  • In both international and domestic policy, the federal government should remain an active partner in a clean energy transition driven increasingly by the recognition that clean energy is cheaper than dirty energy.
  • States should strengthen renewable portfolio standards that require a specific amount of energy generation from emissions-free sources like wind and solar, and adopt strong energy efficiency policies for US homes, buildings, and appliances and equipment.
  • Utilities and their regulators should curb power plant emissions and prioritize renewable energy and energy efficiency.
  • The transportation sector should incentivise electric vehicles and strengthen fuel economy standards to continue reducing US reliance on oil.


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