Chart: Which states support community-led clean energy the most?

A new report finds that every state has room to improve when it comes to promoting community ownership of clean energy resources.
By Maria Virginia Olano

  • Link copied to clipboard

Canary Media’s chart of the week translates crucial data about the clean energy transition into a visual format.

Local policies can either help or hinder community-led clean energy solutions — but according to a new report, most states are doing more hindering than helping.

This year’s Community Power Scorecard from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance gives each U.S. state a letter grade based on their policies around community ownership of clean energy. Out of the 50 states and Washington, D.C., none received an A, and only one — Illinois — got a B. In fact, just over half of states received a failing grade of F.

The institute’s scorecard rubric includes two types of policies: those that support locally owned clean energy, such as net-metering policies that make it more economically attractive to build rooftop solar, and policies that stand in the way of community ownership. One example of the latter is the preemptive prohibitions on measures that seek to ban or limit fossil gas use in buildings that have passed in 24 states.

To be clear, the scorecard is not a measure of clean energy deployment. That’s why Texas has a failing grade despite being a solar and wind giant, for example.

Texas does have a lot of renewable energy, but it really comes down to who’s owning and controlling it. In Texas, it’s all being done by the utilities,” said Maria McCoy, a researcher with the Energy Democracy Initiative and author of the scorecard. The state just isn’t doing the kinds of things that give communities their own opportunities to self-determine.”

McCoy says the benefits of policies that support community power initiatives can include both household-level energy savings and wealth-building opportunities, but they extend beyond that to benefit the community through things like more local jobs and resiliency in the face of extreme weather events (a topic Canary Media explored in-depth in its Power by the People series.) A report by the institute also found that places with more local ownership of clean energy resources tend to be more supportive of clean energy in general.

So what is Illinois — the sole state to earn an above-average grade — doing right?

It’s hard to pinpoint just one thing,” she added. It’s really a combination of little components of different policies. […] It has a good net-metering policy [and] good community-solar policy, so it is checking a lot of boxes. But there is still a lot of room for improvement. Illinois is getting a B, and it is the highest-scoring state.”

Maria Virginia Olano is editorial producer at Canary Media.