November 15, 2002
Berkeley Lab Science Beat Berkeley Lab Science Beat
States lead the way in developing clean energy
Berkeley Lab Science Beat

Lab website index

Lawrence Berkeley National Lab home page

Search Lab science articles archive
 Advanced Search  
Search Tips


From 1998 through 2012, clean-energy funds in 15 states will have collected nearly $3.5 billion for investments in renewable energy markets, making state policies and practices a key market driver for clean energy technologies. According to a new series of case studies by Berkeley Lab researchers, states have emerged as leaders in developing clean-energy market solutions — in a remarkably short time and almost under the collective radar.

"Innovation, Renewable Energy, and State Investment: Case Studies of Leading Clean Energy Funds" is a compilation of the initial 21 case studies in the series, highlighting cutting-edge efforts to bring renewable and clean-energy technologies into the marketplace across the U.S.

"Even though most have been in place for only a few years, state clean-energy funds are becoming key catalysts for the deployment of clean energy technologies," said Ryan Wiser, lead author of the study and a scientist in Berkeley Lab's Environmental Energy Technologies Division. "If we are to build successfully upon these first-generation renewable and clean-energy programs in the United States, we must learn what is working and what is not. This report attempts to start that process."

"Federal and international actions often dominate clean energy headlines, but they do not tell the whole story, or perhaps not even the most important one," said Lew Milford, a coauthor of the study and president of the nonprofit Clean Energy Group. "Almost without notice, state-level actions have become significant drivers in the clean energy field."

The initial 21 case studies in the series cover emerging clean-energy programs and administrative practices at the state level. They focus on practical, local solutions to clean-energy market barriers and explore strategies employed by states to spur economic development and make clean-energy markets work. Some also describe novel international renewable energy programs that could serve as models for future state actions.

Included among the 21 cases covered are:

The use of subordinated debt to finance a wind project in Pennsylvania: The innovative offering of low-cost debt described in this case marks a significant departure from standard grant-based project support.

Buy-down programs for photovoltaic systems in California, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts: This case highlights California's successful capital-based buy-down program, and describes how Pennsylvania and Massachusetts have attempted to build upon this success by incorporating performance-based incentives into their programs.

Biogas projects in California and Wisconsin: This case relates the approaches and experience of two states that are actively supporting the development of a technology that has not received much attention in recent years, but whose fortunes seem to be shifting as the environmental impacts from both conventional electricity generation and agricultural waste continue to mount.

Using customer credits to stimulate green power sales in California, Rhode Island, and New York: This case describes California's pioneering experience in offering a per-kilowatt-hour incentive to encourage customers to purchase green power, and how Rhode Island and New York have attempted to apply lessons learned from California in the design of their own green-power programs.

Massachusetts' Green Building Program: This program — by far the largest and most aggressive effort among state clean energy funds at promoting the use of renewable energy in green buildings — supports feasibility studies and provides design and construction grants for both green schools and green buildings.

Wisconsin's use of program evaluation: Consistent and frequent program evaluation has been a significant component of Wisconsin's renewable energy efforts, and has lead to several real-time changes in program offerings.

As this sample implies, the case studies cover a wide spectrum of program and technology types and broadly represent activities in the 15 states with clean energy funds: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Wisconsin.

Individual case studies and the longer compilation report can be downloaded from the EETD Case Studies of State Support for Renewable Energys Web site or the Clean Energy Funds Network Web site. The authors include Ryan Wiser and Mark Bolinger of Berkeley Lab, Lewis Milford and Roger Clark of the Clean Energy Group, and Kevin Porter of Exeter Associates, Inc. The case studies are based on work originally commissioned by the Energy Trust of Oregon; subsequent updates and revisions were funded by the US Department of Energy's Office of Power Technologies.