A new analysis led by the Union of Concerned Scientists demonstrates that States can reliably meet 100 percent of their electricity needs with renewable energy. They need comprehensive energy policies to ensure the transition is equitable. The Union of Concerned Scientists joined with COPAL of Minnesota, GreenRoots of Massachusetts and the Michigan Environmental Justice Coalition, to better understand the feasibility and implications of key states meeting 100 percent of their electricity needs with renewable energy by 2035.
Researchers focused on 24 member states of the United States Climate Alliance, a bipartisan coalition of governors committed to the goals of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement. They analyzed two main scenarios: business as usual versus 100 percent renewable electricity standards.
The analysis reported May 13 shows that:
- Climate Alliance states can meet 100 percent of their electricity consumption with renewable energy by 2035. This holds true even with strong increases in demand due to the electrification of transportation and heating.
- A transition to renewables yields strong benefits in terms of health, climate, economies, and energy affordability.
- To ensure an equitable transition, states should broaden access to clean energy technologies and decision making to include environmental justice and fossil fuel-dependent communities —while directly phasing out coal and gas plants.
Since its founding in 2017, the US Climate Alliance —a coalition of states committed to meeting the goals of the Paris climate accord— has grown to 24 states and one U.S. territory. All told, they represent 56 percent of the US population, generate 62 percent of the country’s gross domestic product, and are responsible for 43 percent of the country’s annual carbon emissions.
Nearly all of the alliance members have a renewable electricity standard (RES), which requires utilities in their jurisdiction to increase their use of renewable energy to a particular percentage by a specific year.
Four alliance states —California, Hawaii, New Mexico and Washington— plan to achieve 100 percent renewable electricity by 2045, and another seven states plus the alliance’s one territory, Puerto Rico, have a 2050 target.
To help avoid the worst possible consequences of climate change, however, the alliance states need to reach that 100 percent objective much more quickly, the study found. Fortunately, according to the new report by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), they all have the technical ability to meet 100 percent of their electricity demand by as early as 2035.
“U.S. Climate Alliance members are well-positioned to drive decarbonization efforts,” says Paula García, a senior UCS energy analyst and the report’s lead author. “While that is not a replacement for national and international leadership, we are encouraged by our findings about the impact that state-level action alone can have on reducing carbon pollution.”