A new report underscores that even as Republican leaders remain resistant or even hostile to action on climate change, their states and districts are adopting renewable energy at some of the fastest rates in the country.
Four states—Iowa, Kansas, Oklahoma and South Dakota—now get more than 30 percent of their in-state electricity production from wind, according a new report by the American Wind Energy Association. Each of those states voted for Donald Trump in 2016, and each is represented by Republicans in the Senate and has a Republican governor.
In fact, the top 10 congressional districts for installed wind power capacity are represented by Republicans, according to the report, including House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California.
While the U.S. wind power industry continued to expand last year, however, its growth rate slowed, with 7 gigawatts of capacity added in 2017, down from more than 8 gigawatts added in 2016.
The slower growth likely was due in part to changes in tax credits. Developers could take full advantage of the federal Renewable Energy Production Tax Credit for wind energy through the end of 2016, but it began phasing down starting in 2017. And the governor of Oklahoma, the state with the second-highest wind power capacity, signed legislation in 2017 to end state tax incentives for the industry three years early amid a budget crisis.
U.S. Renewables Still Fall Short
Nationwide, wind now supplies more than 6 percent of the country’s electricity, and it is expected to pass hydroelectric power as the largest source of renewable energy in the U.S. this year.
But the total slice of renewables—which provide about 17 percent of the nation’s electricity—is far short of the energy transition experts say is needed to avoid dangerous warming. A paper last year by some of the world’s leading climate change experts said renewables need to make up 30 percent of the global electricity supply by 2020 in order to meet the goals of the Paris climate agreement.
One of the greatest areas of potential growth for wind in the U.S. may be offshore, particularly in the Northeast.
Except for Maine and Vermont, most Northeastern states generate only a tiny fraction of their power from the wind, according to the American Wind Energy Association. But Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York among others have been pushing to expand offshore wind development.
New Jersey’s New Wind Power Push
In January, New Jersey’s newly-elected governor, Democrat Phil Murphy, signed an executive order that aims to boost offshore wind development, with a goal of having 3,500 megawatts of offshore wind power installed by 2030.
Last week, New Jersey lawmakers also passed a bill that would require the state’s utilities to purchase 35 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2025 and 50 percent by 2030, up from the existing target of nearly 25 percent by 2021.
That bill has split environmental groups. The Sierra Club’s New Jersey chapter opposed it in part because it includes cost caps for renewables that, if exceeded, would nullify the renewables standard.
Dale Bryk, of the Natural Resources Defense Council, called the bill “a pretty amazing package” because of its incentives for energy efficiency and renewables. She said her organization has analyzed the cost caps and found that the state can easily stay within them while meeting the goals for renewable energy.