U.S. states up their clean tech games

May 23, 2016, 4:20 PM EDT
Rainbow and wind turbines. (Source: H.P. Brinkmann/flickr)
Rainbow and wind turbines. (Source: H.P. Brinkmann/flickr)

Clean Edge, Inc. released its seventh annual U.S. Clean Tech Leadership Index last week which tracks and ranks "the clean-energy and clean-tech activities of all 50 states and the 50 largest metro areas in the U.S." according to the group. The research found that many states are making positive progress in the clean energy sector, and that various industries within the sector are maturing at accelerated rates.

This year’s top 10 states in clean tech are California, Massachusetts, Vermont, Oregon, New York, Colorado, Illinois, Connecticut, Washington, and Hawaii. But the report calls the U.S.’s overall transition to a clean-energy economy “remarkable” over the last seven years. Iowa, South Dakota, and Kansas are the top three states for in-state generation from non-hydro renewables, and 14 states now exceed 10% of in-state generation from non-hydro renewables.

Clean Edge managing director Ron Pernick pointed out politics is much less of a factor in state-based efforts to join the clean tech movement than it used to be. He said in a company statement: "This shift represents both the maturation of the clean-energy sector and a deployment landscape that transcends politics. Among the Top 10 states for utility-scale clean-electricity generation in our 2016 Index, half were red states during the last presidential election (Idaho, Kansas, North Dakota, Oklahoma, and South Dakota) and half were blue states (California, Colorado, Iowa, Minnesota, and Vermont)."

The figures this year also show how some states have shifted in their clean tech investments, moving up or down the list. Oregon lost its 2015 spot at number three to Vermont despite 70% of the state’s power generation derived from renewable sources. New Hampshire dropped four spots, falling from 12th to 16th in this year’s ranking — something Pernick attributes not to the Granite State’s lack of clean tech investments, but the fact that other states have upped their clean tech antes. He noted that eastern states have made significant progress despite initially being at a disadvantage when the company’s reporting began seven years ago. The long and short of it is, the U.S. clean tech sector is ramping up in much-needed ways, with competition spurring crucial growth in renewables.