California, Colorado and Massachusetts are the states that have been friendliest to renewable energy in recent years, according to a new analysis on EnergyTrends.org. But each of the states earned only a B on the index, while 16 states received failing grades.
The findings offer numerous insights into the choppy growth of renewable energy across the United States. The scoring was designed to capture not just overall energy patterns, but significant trajectories in the nation’s energy use.
Southeastern states, where electricity is relatively cheap, lagged substantially behind the rest of the country in their emphasis on renewables. Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, Virginia, Louisiana, and Mississippi accounted for the six lowest grades in this category, with Florida placing only slightly higher. But the region does not lack natural resources for generating renewable energy, as is widely assumed. This is underscored by the presence of one of the world’s largest biofuel plants, near Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
The region has been identified as holding some of the strongest potential for electricity savings through increased efficiency. The southeastern United States are also pacing another significant trend of recent years – using more natural gas, and less coal, to generate electricity.
Washington state led the nation in per-capita energy generation from renewable sources in 2010. However, Washington was second to last in growth in renewable energy generation between 2007-10.
Meanwhile Indiana and Illinois, which both rate near the bottom in generating energy from renewable sources, were the top two states in terms of growth of this sector, with 443 and 266 percent increased, respectively. Growth is an important component of the EnergyTrends scoring system, because renewables comprise such a small part of overall energy use in the United States.
Oklahoma, one of the nation’s largest natural gas producers, had the second-highest growth in electricity generated from natural gas between 2007 and 2010. It also had a dramatic increase in wind-generated electricity, more than 6000% over this period.
The analysis was based on federal Energy Department data through 2010, so does not reflect more recent developments. The website’s grading system takes into account both the amount of energy generated from renewable sources and the growth rate over a three-year period, as well as savings achieved in electricity use, state incentive programs for renewable energy, and other factors. Bonus points were awarded for significant initiatives in categories such as grid-connected renewable installations, dynamic pricing for power utility consumers, and integration of electric vehicles.
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