The State of the States on Clean Energy

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"Lack of national energy policy is slowing the route to a low-carbon economy."

As America enters the next chapter of its political history, national energy leadership remains a pipe dream. One side wants to accelerate business as usual: more oil drilling, while the other side wants to accelerate a new generation of technologies, including renewables, a more intelligent grid, and a strong emphasis on efficiency, with ample subsidies ensuring that these technologies take hold.

So far, business as usual seems to be winning out.

Although renewable have experienced some progress, lack of a comprehensive national climate or energy policy have made the route to a low-carbon economy frustratingly slow and, for investors and entrepreneurs, needlessly perilous.

National leadership probably will be lacking for the foreseeable future, but blaming Washington for all this is a cop-out. So, I was pleased to see the publication last week of two research reports rating the states on next-gen energy policy. The U.S. Clean Energy Leadership Index assesses and ranks more than 80 different state-level indicators.

California ranked first, followed by Oregon, Massachusetts. Washington, Colorado, New York, Illinois, Connecticut, Minnesota, and New Jersey, among the top-10 states.

Another report, titled Freeing the Grid, focuses much more narrowly, measuring net metering (a billing arrangement in which customers that generate more renewable energy than they need for their own use can sell it back to the grid at market prices), and interconnection (the technical rules and procedures allowing customers to "plug in" their solar or wind generating equipment to the grid).

There was good news: 37 states received A or B grades for their net metering policies, up from 13 states in 2007.

This is geeky stuff, to be sure, but these rules and regulations represent the foundation upon which a robust clean-energy industry can grow and prosper. Without these policies in place, the industry is doomed to limp along.

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