The U.S. has been gradually developing its renewable energy capacity over the last decade to become a major producer of solar, geothermal and hydropower. Since the introduction of the Biden administration’s Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) last year – the country’s most far-reaching climate policy to date, states have been battling it out to develop more green energy capacity, to gain access to government and private funding. And, perhaps surprisingly, in 2022 the Republican states dominated in renewable energy production.
The U.S. Track Record and Projections on Green Energy
Green power generation in the U.S. has risen by over 300% in the last decade. The introduction of favorable climate policies under the Biden administration and the recent shortage of natural gas due to sanctions on Russian energy are expected to lead to an acceleration of the rollout of renewable energy projects across the U.S. over the next decade. A sharp rise in the price of fossil fuel has encouraged companies worldwide to invest in the expansion of the green energy capacity, to diversify the energy mix and boost energy security. This has helped significantly drive down the cost of solar power worldwide and is expected to support price falls in other green energy sectors.
According to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), wind and solar energy contributed 14% of the country’s electricity generation last year. The EIA estimates that the wind and solar capacity will rise slightly this year to account for 16% of the total electricity generation in 2023 and 18% in 2023. Meanwhile, electricity generation from coal is expected to decrease from 20% in 2022 to 17% in 2023 and 2024.
The Inflation Reduction Act
The IRA unlocked over $500 billion in funding and tax breaks for green energy projects and clean technologies. The passing of the IRA followed the success of two other policies aimed at driving competition and innovation, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) and the CHIPS & Science Act. Although the legislation passed, there was a distinct red/blue divide when it came to voting, as the IRA did not achieve one congressional Republican vote. Nevertheless, three of the top five solar electricity-producing states last year were run by Republican governments and half of the 10 states producing the highest amount of renewable electricity were also red states.
Texas – A Unexpected Green Energy Leader
Despite continuing to lead the U.S. in oil and gas, Texas has rapidly expanded its renewable energy capacity to become a leader in green energy. The southern state produced more wind energy than any other state in 2022 and is quickly catching up to California when it comes to solar production. Renewable energy now accounts for around 26% of Texan electricity production.
The wind energy industry has grown significantly in Texas in recent years thanks to the state’s proactive approach to improving and expanding transmission lines to access wind resources. The wind farm pipeline reflects the ease of new project access to the grid, allowing energy companies to deliver their energy to homes and businesses. Further, the laws deregulating the energy market in Texas have supported the development of land for wind farms, as just 2% of Texan land is regulated by the federal government. Irfan Khan, an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at Texas A&M, stated, “Texas is rich in wind speed and rich in sun… While there is a lot of initial investment, after the wind turbines are erected, the cost of wind is cheaper.”
California – A Forerunner in Renewables and Clean Tech
While Texas is leading on wind energy, an obvious forerunner in renewables is California, which has long been developing its solar capacity and clean tech industry. In April last year, California achieved a milestone moment when it announced it had produced enough renewable electricity to meet 103% of consumer demand. California has vast solar, wind and hydropower resources with more under development. Across the state, the number of solar panels on building rooftops has tripled since 2005, and in 2019, 63% of the state’s power came from green resources.
In addition to traditional renewable energy sources, California is leading the U.S. when it comes to innovation in green technologies. It is rapidly developing massive battery facilities to support its clean energy generation and to ensure a more stable supply of energy to the grid. The passing of the California Climate Commitment in 2022 has encouraged more energy companies and startups to invest in renewable energy and clean tech in a bid to achieve state-wide carbon neutrality no later than 2045 and 90% clean electricity by a decade earlier.
The co-founder and CEO of ZapBatt, Charlie Welch, stated, “Climate tech is the perfect focus for this culture of innovation.” While the co-founder and CEO of Paired Power, Tom McCalmont, explained “Other states often seem to live in fear of dramatic and rapid industrial change, but the culture in California has proved again and again that innovation and new ideas transform society and bring positive economic benefits.”