U.S. States & Regions
States and regions across the country are adopting climate policies, including the development of regional greenhouse gas reduction markets, the creation of state and local climate action and adaptation plans, and increasing renewable energy generation. Read More
In his State of the Union address, President Obama promised stronger action on climate change. Today he followed up with a credible and comprehensive plan. The real issue now is how vigorously he follows through.
From a policy perspective, the president’s plan lacks the sweep, cohesion and ambition that might be possible through new legislation. With Congress unwilling to act, the president instead is offering an amalgam of actions across the federal government, relying on executive powers alone.
Taken together, the actions represent the broadest climate strategy put forward by any U.S. president, addressing the need to both cut carbon emissions and strengthen climate resilience. While many of the specific items are relatively small-bore, and quite a few are actions already underway, the plan also includes new initiatives that can significantly advance the U.S. climate effort.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s $20 billion plan to safeguard New York City against a future Hurricane Sandy and other climate risks is the most ambitious effort yet by any U.S. city to prepare for the expected impacts of climate change.
The mayor last week announced “A Stronger, More Resilient New York,” a comprehensive plan to protect communities and critical infrastructure, and proposed significant changes to New York’s building codes for new construction and major renovations that will help buildings withstand severe weather and flooding. Its 250 recommendations include building new infrastructure (like installing armor stone shoreline protection in Coney Island), changing how services are provided (like encouraging redundant internet infrastructure), and establishing standardized citywide communication protocols for use during disruptions.
On June 4, 2013, Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman signed into law a bill that supports wind farm development with tax incentives. LB 104 provides a sales tax exemption for the purchase of turbines, towers, and other wind farm components. These tax incentives for wind development will allow wind projects to stay competitive with other methods of electricity generation in Nebraska and are expected to increase wind generating capacity in the state.
The American Wind Energy Association ranks Nebraska as having the fourth best wind resources in the nation, but the state lags in wind energy development. It ranks 26th out of the 39 states that generate electricity from wind energy. Nebraska currently has 459 MW of wind power capacity, while its neighbors Iowa, Kansas, and Oklahoma have 5133 MW, 2713 MW, and 3134 MW of capacity, respectively. Iowa, Kansas, and Oklahoma already have tax incentive provisions similar to those of LB 104.
At the time of the bill passage, Nebraska does not have a Renewable or Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard, but the Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) that are generated from Nebraskan wind farms have value in other states and can be traded through REC tracking systems.
For more information:
C2ES Climate TechBook: Wind Power
On May 24, 2013, Governor Mark Dayton of Minnesota signed into law an energy bill that is projected to greatly increase the state’s solar energy capacity by the end of the decade. Specifically, all utilities in the state must procure 1.5 percent of their electricity from solar generation by 2020, in addition to Minnesota’s existing Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) of 25 percent by 2025. Thus Minnesota’s RPS is now effectively 26.5 percent by 2025. To learn more details about Minnesota’s RPS, click on the state in the C2ES map of state Renewable and Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards.
Although 1.5 percent may seem low, compared to Minnesota’s existing solar capacity it is actually quite high. Currently, Minnesota has 13 megawatts (MW) of solar energy capacity, but in order to reach the 1.5 percent standard, the state will have to increase its solar capacity to 450 MW, more than a 30-fold increase. Thirteen other states have solar requirements, or “carve-outs,” five of which have percentage requirements higher than Minnesota. The states with the highest solar requirements are Colorado and New Mexico, each requiring four percent of electricity sold in the respective state to come from solar energy by 2020.
In addition to requiring that 1.5 percent of electricity come from solar resources, HF 956 also includes other solar energy initiatives. The law mandates that the state’s largest utility, Xcel Energy, begin a community solar garden program, in which people can own shares of a remote solar energy system and earn credit on their utility bill as if the solar panels were on their own homes. In addition, the law increases the maximum capacity for a net meter from 40 kilowatts to 1000 kilowatts, meaning owners of large solar panel arrays, such as large retail stores, can now be credited for electricity they put back on the grid, reducing their electricity bills. Lastly, the law also mentions a non-mandatory, state-wide goal of 10 percent solar by 2030.
Another energy bill was recently introduced in Minnesota that would increase the state’s RPS to 40 percent by 2030. This move would make Minnesota’s RPS one of the highest in the country.
For more information:
C2ES: Renewable Energy - Solar
C2ES: State RPS and AEPS Details
Midwest Energy News: Minnesota’s new solar law: Looking beyond percentages
PV-Tech: Minnesota bill will boost solar from 13 MW to 450MW
On April 23, 2013, Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant signed into law four bills relating to energy efficiency. The four pieces of legislation strengthen the state’s energy office, increase energy efficiency standards of state-owned and commercial buildings, and create a revolving loan fund for state institutions to invest in alternative fuel vehicles. All will take effect on July 1, 2013. These four measures are part of Governor Bryant’s larger economic development plan called Energy Works: Mississippi’s Energy Roadmap, which also includes legislation to incentivize oil and gas production.
HB 1296 reorganizes and increases the recognition of the state’s energy office, the Mississippi Development Authority’s (MDA) Energy and Natural Resources Division. One of the newly established responsibilities of the Division is to promote energy efficiency within state agencies and the private sector in order to realize the environmental as well as the economic benefits; another is to promote renewable technologies within Mississippi.
HB 1266 strengthens the energy efficiency standards for newly constructed state-owned buildings, which match the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) 90.1-2010 standards. This only applies to construction projects above a certain size, and only applies retroactively to some state-owned buildings constructed after July 2009. According to the Governor’s office, higher energy efficiency will translate to financial savings by the state government.
HB 1281 strengthens the energy efficiency standards for commercial buildings, which match the ASHRAE 90.1-2010 standards. This only applies to commercial buildings under construction after July 1, 2013. Local governing authorities, rather than the MDA, will have the right to enforce and set penalties relating to these standards. This law makes Mississippi’s commercial building energy standards the highest in its region.
Lastly, HB 1685 establishes a $2.75 million zero-interest revolving loan fund available for municipalities and school districts to acquire vehicles that run on natural gas or propane, either through purchase or conversion. This fund will be administered by the MDA.
For more information:
Press Release: Gov. Phil Bryant Enacts Major Energy Efficiency Legislation
Energy Works: 2013 Landmark Energy Legislation in Mississippi
C2ES: Commercial Building Energy Codes Map
C2ES: Climate TechBook - Buildings
On May 16, 2013, Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey revealed a plan to spend $300 million of Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) funds to buy out homes in flood-prone areas affected by Hurricane Sandy in October 2012. This program will give homeowners in Central New Jersey the opportunity to move instead of rebuilding in an area that is at high risk to flood again. The plan is based on the idea that the costs of relocating homes away from flood-prone areas will be lower than the cost of continuously rebuild flood- or storm-damaged homes
Called the “Willing Seller” Plan, this program is completely voluntary. In addition, it will target neighborhoods rather than individual homes, so that the bought out land can be razed and become open space. The program is targeting nearly 1000 homes in the central coast area of Jersey and will start with around 350 homes in Sayreville, which is located in the floodplains of the Raritan River.
The timeline for this program is short. Property appraisals will begin in June, and the first round of buyouts are expected to be completed by Labor Day. The entire program is scheduled to take just one year. The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) will handle the purchasing and the State Office of Emergency Management (OEM) will procure funds through FEMA.
This plan is an extension of the state’s Blue Acres Floodplain Acquisitions program, a voluntary buyout program for flood-prone homes that began in 1995, but has been low on funds since 1998 because of a high demand for buyouts. In contrast, demand for New York’s post-Sandy buyout program has been lackluster as most homeowners are choosing to stay and rebuild.
For more information:
State of New Jersey: Press Release
C2ES: Extreme Weather Map
On May 15, 2013, two new pieces of legislation to lower financial barriers to using plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs) were passed into law in Colorado by Governor John Hickenlooper. Financial incentives play an important role in keeping PEVs competitive in the automobile market.
House Bill 1247, called the Innovative Motor Vehicle Income Tax Credit, secures state tax credits up to $6000 for electric vehicle purchasers or lessees until 2021, which would have otherwise expired in 2015. The bill specifically covers any EV that can be recharged from external sources, including plug-in hybrids. The bill also covers vehicles that are converted into PEVs, which are eligible for a tax incentive of $7500. This law will take effect in January 2014.
House Bill 1110, called the Special Fuel Tax & Electric Vehicle Fee, establishes a flat, annual fee of $50 for the registration of each plug-in electric vehicle. Sixty percent of the fee replaces the revenue not collected from gasoline taxes and goes toward road and highway maintenance, while the other forty percent funds electric vehicle infrastructure such as charging stations. Colorado’s PEV fee as established by HB 1100 is low compared to those considered by other states, which are around $100 or calculated based on mileage and do not fund PEV infrastructure. This law will take effect in January 2014.
According to Denver Clean Cities, as of July 2012, there were almost 1,300 registered PEVs and around 70 charging public charging stations in the state. However, this number is likely to grow because Colorado is relatively generous with policies supporting electric vehicles.
According to one source, Colorado is the leading state in the region when it comes to PEV policy. A state government report card from Southwest Energy Efficiency Project (SWEEP) awarded Colorado with a grade of “A-” for its twelve policies that support electric vehicle adoption, including the two laws mentioned above. Colorado does not fare quite as well as California, however, which would earn an “A+” under SWEEP’s methodology because of its major commitment to install fast-charging stations along highway corridors and for 15% of cars sold in the state by 2025 to be plug-in electric vehicles.
For more information:
C2ES: Common Concerns about EV Policy
C2ES: PEV State of Play and PEV Literature Review
C2ES: Powering More Travel with Electricity Map
C2ES: PEV Dialogue
plugincars: Colorado Extends $6,000 Plug-in Vehicle Credit Through 2021
These states have set standards specifying that electric utilities deliver a certain amount of electricity from renewable or alternative energy sources. Most of these requirements take the form of a "renewable portfolio standard" (RPS) or "alternative energy portfolio standard" (AEPS) which requires a certain percentage of a utility’s power plant capacity or generation to come from renewable or alternative energy sources by a given date. The standards range from modest to ambitious, and qualifying energy sources vary. Some states also include "carve-outs" (requirements that a certain percentage of the portfolio be generated from a specific energy source, such as solar power) or other incentives to encourage the development of particular resources. Although climate change may not be the prime motivation behind these standards, the use of renewable or alternative energy can deliver significant greenhouse gas reductions. Increasing a state’s use of renewable energy brings other benefits as well, including job creation, energy security, and cleaner air. While the first RPS was established in 1983, the majority of states passed or strengthened their standards after 2000. Consequently, while many of these efforts have increased the penetration of renewables; others have not been in effect long enough to do so. Many states allow utilities to comply with the RPS or AEPS through tradeable credits. While the success of state efforts to increase renewable or alternative energy production will depend in part on federal policies such as production tax credits, states have been effective in encouraging clean energy generation.
For more information on state renewable and alternative portfolio standards, please refer to our resources: Comparison of Qualifying Resources for Individual States’ RPS and AEPS and Detailed Table of State Policies (including RPS/AEPS targets, carve-outs, tiers, classes, incentives, hydropower definitions, and relevant authorities).
Please refer to our Renewable Energy Credit Tracking Systems map to see how credits verifying renewable energy generation can be tracked and traded across U.S. regions.
For more information on federal portfolio standards, please refer to our: CES Resource Page.
Some states coordinate their RPS or AEPS with an Energy Efficiency Resource Standard (EERS). Learn more about states with an EERS here.