ECOWATCH — Looking back at the last year, there are clear signs that the clean energy transition is moving forward in America. Here are eight states that really stepped up to become climate leaders:
In August, the California legislature passed remarkable climate change legislation to further reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Senate Bill 32 set the next target to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030. Another bill, AB 197, increases legislative oversight and transparency for the state's climate change programs and emphasizes the state's commitment to ensuring these policies help communities most impacted by air pollution.
Not only is California on track to meet its emissions reductions goals, but its overall economy is growing.
On Dec. 1, Illinois passed the Future Energy Jobs Bill (SB 2814) with bipartisan support, and it was signed into law by Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner. The Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition worked on the bill for nearly two years.
The bill contains several big wins for clean energy. Most notably, it corrects a flaw in the state's Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) law concerning new in-state renewable build requirements for wind and solar, the state's first community solar program, and a new Illinois Solar for All program—which is a low-income solar job training initiative. The bill also increased the state's energy efficiency policies.
The state passed landmark legislation, the Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Act (SB 323), which was signed into law by Republican Gov. Larry Hogan. The law requires Maryland to reduce statewide greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent, from 2006 levels, by 2030. This target was unanimously recommended by the state's bipartisan Climate Change Commission in fall 2015. The legislation was supported by a diverse group of stakeholders and is expected to create and maintain thousands of jobs.
This summer Massachusetts legislators passed another energy bill that will once again make Massachusetts a clean energy leader. The bill includes a large-scale clean energy procurement requirement for hydro, wind, solar and other renewable sources and the necessary transmission to power the state.
The legislation also calls for Massachusetts utilities to solicit contracts for 1,600 megawatts of offshore wind development by 2030. That's enough to meet 15 percent of Massachusetts's electricity needs. In all, up to 40 percent of the state's electricity could come from clean energy sources by 2030.
This month the state passed Senate bills 437 and 438, which make significant progress towards Michigan's clean energy future. The legislation strengthens the state's renewable portfolio standard (RPS) from 10 percent by 2015, to 15 percent by 2021, and requires renewable energy resources to be built within the service territories of utilities that serve Michigan.
6. New York
The New York Public Service Commission (PSC) gave approval to Gov. Cuomo's plan for New York to obtain 50 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030 through the state's Clean Energy Standard. The PSC order established an overall legally-binding renewables target for 2030, and requires New York state utilities to ramp up long-term purchases of renewable energy credits to meet those targets.
This builds on the state's commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by signing the Under 2 MOU in 2015, which sets an ambitious target to reduce emissions 40 percent by 2030 and 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.
In March, the Oregon Legislature passed the Clean Energy and Coal Transition Act (SB 1547) with bipartisan support. The legislation doubles Oregon's existing renewable portfolio standard (RPS) from 25 percent by 2025 to 50 percent by 2040 and requires the state's two largest utilities to phase out coal generation imports by 2035.
A huge advantage of Oregon's coal phase out is that it creates room in the power supply for cleaner energy sources. The legislation had true consensus with support from environmental groups, the state's consumer advocate, businesses, and the state's two largest utilities.
8. Rhode Island
The state passed HB 7413 that will increase the state's renewable energy standard by 1.5 percent each year, requiring 38.5 percent of the state's electricity to come from renewables by 2035. Also, the state's Block Island became the site of the first offshore wind project in the Western Hemisphere. The project consists of five wind turbines adding up to 30 megawatts which became operational this year, and more offshore wind is coming.
More Good News
Sometimes good news comes in the form of stuff that didn't happen. Florida's Solar Amendment 1, an anti-solar ballot initiative, didn't pass. The amendment was backed by utilities and fossil fuel interests, and was an attempt to deceive voters and limit solar development in the state.
On a National Level
And on the national level, the five-year extension of federal tax credits for wind and solar signed into law late last year was a huge driver for clean energy development this year and in coming years. One million solar installations are now turned on in the U.S.
More wind generation will be installed in 2017 due to the current administration approving the Plains & Eastern Clean Line transmission project. The project is one of the biggest renewable energy projects in the country and will allow construction of approximately 4,000 megawatts of wind power.
Job growth occurred in both the wind and solar sectors this year. According to the American Wind Energy Association’s 2015 Annual Market Report, wind power supported 88,000 American jobs at the start of 2016, which is a 20 percent increase from the previous year. Nearly 209,000 Americans work in the solar industry, and that number is expected to rise to 420,000 by 2020, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association.
Onward and Upward
Let’s celebrate our 2016 victories, but our work isn't done. We must continue to fight for clean energy and against anti-science rhetoric.
Thank you to our friends at Union of Concerned Scientists and EcoWatch for providing the original article below.
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