The Western US is outpacing the rest of the country in renewable energy generation, according to a report from the American Council on Renewable Energy released this week.
The Western Region Report, the first of four covering different US areas to be released over the next five months, says that the 13 Western states produced almost a third of their total energy from renewable sources, compared to around an eighth nationally.
Hydroelectric generation made up the lion;s share of the difference, accounting for 25 per cent of the energy generation in the Western region, compared to just seven per cent countrywide. The Western US relied less on nuclear power = eight per cent compared to 19 per cent countrywide - and on coal - 27 per cent, compared to 37 per cent across the US.
Well-designed state policies have been key to driving renewable energy across the Western region, the report said, including binding renewable mandates and net metering rules. Financial incentives have also driven demand. Other drivers include the approval of ‘renewable energy zones' on federally-owned lands, which are particularly abundant in the West.
Overall, Washington state had the highest installed renewable power capacity, followed by California, Oregon, Arizona, and Idaho. Alaska, which has a strong tradition of oil production, had the lowest installed capacity - although it is important to remember that installed capacity is also a function of population.
The report called out Alaska as one of several states without renewable portfolio standards to drive the increased production of sustainable energy. Wyoming, Idaho, and Utah were the others. Wyoming has the country's only tax on wind power generation, the report said, and has no utility-scale renewable energy projects in 2012 or this year.
The cheap price of gas may discourage states without renewable targets from producing renewable energy projects, the report warned. The Western states get 30 per cent of their energy from natural gas, which equals the nationwide average.
Article first published on BusinessGreen.com