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NREL’s State of the State report: How green is your state?

Last month, the National Renewable Energy Lab released their State of the State report – a 231 page document (PDF) that tracks the progress of renewable energy development, as well as the policies and support mechanisms being implemented to encourage this development.

The exhaustive report provides a detailed picture of the status of renewable energy development in each of the U.S. states using a variety of metrics and discusses the policies being used to encourage this growth.

The five major categories are: biomass, geothermal, solar, wind and hydroelectric growth.

Data is tracked from 2001-2007, and includes factors such as state tax incentives, renewable energy access laws and production incentives. Page 104 of the document summarizes state renewable energy development policies.

All renewables combined only account for about 8% of the nation’s energy generation. Interestingly, solar generation is the lowest producing renewable energy, producing only 0.01 percent. The highest producing renewable energy is hydropower, with almost 6 percent.

However, wind resources experienced the largest growth of the renewable energy technologies in recent years, increasing 30% from 2006 to 2007. Solar electricity generation has increased at a much slower rate, with gains of only 12.7% between 2001 and 2007.

The statistical analyses reveal several interesting results. States that implemented net-metering legislation in 2005 had significantly more renewable energy generation in 2007 than states without such a policy. However, this analysis does not find any single model for a renewable portfolio standard that is correlated with significant increases in development.

The report shows positive correlations between the total number of market transformation policies within a given state (including both barrier reduction and technology accessibility policies) and the total megawatt-hours (MWh) of renewable energy generated within that state. This relationship is particularly true when considering individual renewable energy resources.

In 2007, generation from renewable resources constituted 8.49% of total national electricity generation.

Solar energy still represents a small but growing fraction of total renewable energy generation. This portion is likely to grow in future surveys given the increasing numbers of concentrating solar power projects are being either proposed or have come online after 2007, particularly in the Southwestern states.

Wind energy accounted for the largest percentage of nationwide growth in renewable generation between 2001-2007, as well as between 2006-2007. Generation from wind resources grew by 411% from 2001 to 2007, and by 30% from 2006 to 2007.

The state that provides the highest generation of wind energy is Texas, followed by California.

Washington state provides the grid with the highest amount of electricity generated from renewable resources, with a total of 82,559,749 MWh. See page 172 to find your own state’s ranking.

Kansas leads the pack in total growth of renewable energy generation, with a growth of 70,236 between 2001-2007. See page 176 to see where your state ranks.

California provides the overwhelming majority of solar power, with a kWdc amount of 528,262. New Jersey follows second with 70,236 kWdc.

Also provided is an overview of 14 contextual factors that may affect renewable energy development and policy effectiveness at the state level. Each state has a unique set of circumstances, and the same contextual factors may affect states differently, depending on specific state conditions. From a qualitative perspective, all 14 factors influence the bottom-line economics for renewable energy projects. The interplay among the various contextual factors is less quantified at this point. An increased understanding of these interactions – and how policies can be used to account for and take advantage of the interactions – will improve the future effectiveness of policy design and implementation.