Clean Energy For All: A Report on Clean Energy Progress Accomplished by State and Local Leaders

Since President Trump’s election, local governments all across the country have advanced climate solutions and expanded clean energy. It has been a year since President Trump embraced polluters’ priorities and announced that the United States would withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement, but states, cities and localities have stepped in to fill this void of climate leadership. In fact, states and cities representing more than 40 percent of the U.S. population — which, together, are equivalent to the world’s third largest economy — have declared their intent to meet the carbon reduction goals of the Paris Climate Agreement.

These state and local leaders are working together. Governors Andrew Cuomo, Jerry Brown, and Jay Inslee started the U.S. Climate Alliance, which includes a bipartisan group of 14 governors — from New Jersey to Oregon to Puerto Rico — who have committed to maintaining their emissions reductions targets, consistent with the Paris Agreement. Additionally, the We Are Still In coalition was created and consists of more than 2,700 CEOs, mayors, governors, college presidents, and other leaders who have committed to climate action.

This leadership is coming at a critical moment for clean energy, a moment when, we, as a country, cannot afford to fall behind. Alternatives to fossil fuels, like wind and solar, have never been cheaper and decisions determining the ongoing competitiveness of these fossil fuel alternatives are happening in states across the country. In the absence of federal leadership, it is this sub-federal action that will maintain momentum towards U.S. climate commitments and demonstrate to candidates and elected officials across the country that bold clean energy solutions are both good policy and good politics.

This report outlines the role that the Conservation Voter Movement — a network of 30 state organizations and one national organization, the League of Conservation Voters (LCV) — has played in advancing climate solutions at the state and local level since President Trump took office. It also explores our vision for continuing this work so that our clean energy future and pollution free communities become a reality for everyone in this country.

Clean Energy For All Campaign

In response to the Trump administration handing federal climate policy over to polluters, the Conservation Voter Movement launched the Clean Energy For All Campaign, marking the movement’s first-ever unified policy campaign. Our vision is one where our country runs on 100 percent clean energy by 2050, bringing all our communities closer to a pollution-free reality.

This vision — one that reduces pollution, expands clean energy, and protects our communities from the impacts of fossil fuel reliance — is enormously popular with people all across the country: Democrats, Republicans and independents alike. People want the decision-making power to choose their energy sources, and they prefer clean energy.

Fighting for clean energy is not new for the LCV family of organizations, but at this critical time, the Clean Energy for All campaign represents an ambitious new approach that centers around local campaigns in 30 states across the country, which, collectively, will add up to a significant shift to a clean energy economy. With an initial investment of over $2 million, the Clean Energy for All campaign is working at the state and local level to win clean energy ballot initiatives, secure candidate commitments to 100 percent clean energy, pressure decision-makers to outline specific clean energy policies, push for equitable investments that limit pollution, and encourage lawmakers to hold polluters accountable.

Clean Energy For All Accomplishments

State and local progress on clean energy is wide ranging and widespread. It is happening independent of political affiliations, through multiple policy-making structures, ranging from ballot measures to state-wide legislation to district and city-level initiatives.

For instance, in 2016, voters in Florida passed a ballot measure to unlock solar energy and rejected a polluter-backed anti-solar measure, all in a state that voted for Trump. And following the 2016 elections, Michigan, Ohio, Maryland and Massachusetts — all states with Republican governors — passed clean energy legislation with bipartisan majorities.

Furthermore, in cities like Anchorage and Boise, mayors and city councils are pursuing bold, local clean energy plans, and in Nebraska, the state public power district signed off on the largest solar project in the state’s history. In Colorado, the utility Xcel Energy plans to retire two coal-fired power plants and dramatically increase solar and wind sources as a result of ongoing organizing by activists and community members.

In 2017, Chispa launched the Clean Buses for Healthy Niños campaign, which is calling on elected leaders to invest in electric school buses, and will, in turn, protect our children from breathing dangerous diesel toxins. The campaign is gathering speed, as members of our Clean Buses for Healthy Niños coalition have collected over 145,000 petitions and delivered over 35,000 petitions to their governors in five states.

State Chispa programs achieved several local victories the spring of 2018. Chispa Maryland worked with Councilmember Deni Taveras to pass a resolution at the Prince George’s County Council that calls on Governor Hogan to invest in electric school buses. Earlier in 2018, a group of 27 municipalities in Prince George’s county passed a similar resolution. Meanwhile, in Connecticut, New Haven Public Schools’ Board of Education passed a resolution that unanimously supports replacing their diesel school buses with clean, electric buses. Thanks to the advocacy efforts of Chispa Connecticut, New Haven Public Schools plan to ask for bids from electric bus companies during their contract renewal this summer.

On May 18, 2018, the Michigan League of Conservation Voters were a key component of a compromise reached between clean energy advocates and Michigan utility companies setting a goal of 50 percent of the energy generated by these utilities to come from a combination of clean energy and energy efficiency measures by 2030.

A compilation of Conservation Voter Movement wins on clean energy since Trump’s election can be found at the end of this report.

Spotlight: 100% Clean Energy Win in New Jersey

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signs the nation’s strongest renewable energy standard into law and also put forth an executive order directing state agencies to update their energy supply plan to reflect New Jersey’s commitment to 100 percent clean energy by 2050. Murphy is joined by Ed Potosnak, the executive director of the New Jersey League of Conservation Voters.

Last year in New Jersey, the New Jersey League of Conservation Voters Education Fund (NJLCVEF) launched its Green in ’17 campaign, urging all candidates for governor to commit to 100 percent clean energy — a bold commitment, considering that only one other state in the country had pledged to reach the same goal. To reinforce the public’s support of this commitment, NJLCVEF mobilized volunteers to attend candidate events where they raised questions about the environment, they helped make the environment a critical piece of the media’s narrative about the race, and they held grassroots trainings.

NJLCVEF’s Green in ’17 campaign proved wildly successful. They gained commitments to support 100 percent clean energy from every Democratic candidate, and Republican nominee Kim Guadagno agreed to put the state back into the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). At a time when communities were craving opportunities to counteract the questionable environmental decisions of the Trump administration, NJLCVEF harnessed grassroots energy, and candidates embraced the campaign’s appeal. Most importantly, the eventual winner of the race, Phil Murphy, committed to 100 percent clean energy by 2050 and made it a central theme of his campaign.

Phil Murphy’s win was historic: he is the first governor to have committed to and campaigned on 100 percent clean energy pledge. Since his inauguration, he has put the state back in RGGI, announced a bold goal of 3500 megawatts of offshore wind (enough to power roughly 1 million homes), which will make New Jersey our nation’s leader in offshore wind energy, and he banned fracking in the Delaware Watershed. Just this week, while signing the nation’s strongest renewable energy standard into law, he also put forth an executive order directing state agencies to update their energy supply plan to reflect New Jersey’s commitment to 100 percent clean energy by 2050.

Spotlight: A Clean Energy Governor and Progress in Virginia

Virginia League of Conservation Voters helped elect clean energy Governor Ralph Northam, who is already making progress in his state.

Virginia is poised to become the first southern state to regulate carbon emissions from power plants under a new state regulation linking the state with parallel pollution trading programs. This effort to combat climate change and grow Virginia’s clean energy sector began in 2016 under Governor McAuliffe and was squarely on the ballot in 2017 as a top priority of Virginia League of Conservation Voters’ endorsed candidate and current governor, Ralph Northam, who handily defeated his Trump-endorsed, pro-coal, pro-fossil fuels, anti-climate action opponent.

While this effort allows Virginia to begin trading with regional programs like the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) and capping carbon emissions — their target is a 30-percent reduction by 2030 — they still have some work ahead of them to maximize this huge opportunity.

In order for Virginians to see the full benefits of joining an established program like RGGI — including state proceeds from selling their carbon allowances, which will be used to enhance coastal resiliency, energy efficiency and clean energy deployment — the Virginia Legislature will have to act. So far, they have refused, rejecting Governor Northam’s legislation to join RGGI while attacking the governor’s authority to move forward with their current, agency-level carbon rule — an attack that the governor vetoed.

Over the coming months, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality will finalize the carbon rule, which will then head to the State Air Pollution Control Board for approval. Virginia LCV will advocate the strong economic, public health and environmental benefits of linking with a highly successful, proven market-based approach to cut harmful carbon pollution, while enabling access to RGGI proceeds for further investments in improving Virginia’s energy efficiency and investing in its renewables sector.

Additionally, 2019 is an election year in Virginia, which means climate action will be on the ballot in all 140 of our statehouse elections. Virginia will need to keep all of their current pro-climate seats while picking up two districts each in the House and Senate, a lift made much easier by 2017’s wave election, which was, in part, a referendum on Trump and his attacks on science and clean air.

A Look Ahead: The Clean Energy for All Campaign

To keep growing momentum for clean energy, we will engage at the state and local level in a variety of ways, including:

Support decisionmakers as they break down the barriers to clean energy with specific policy proposals, including increased clean energy standards, greater offshore wind commitments, and expansion of solar. State LCV partners in Colorado and Minnesota have pushed local utilities to develop formal plans to move from coal to clean energy, and in Colorado it resulted in over 1.4 gigawatts of additional wind and solar energy. We’ll support these efforts, as well as similar efforts in California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maryland and New Mexico, where advocates are seeking to increase state clean energy standards and expand access to renewables.

Encourage legislators to hold polluters accountable by charging for carbon pollution and expanding carbon pricing programs. In Washington state and Oregon, advocates are pushing for measures that would finally charge polluters for carbon pollution and make transformative investments. These efforts would build on progress being made in Virginia to cut carbon pollution from power plants, as well as 2017 progress in California and the Northeast to strengthen caps on carbon pollution.

Win ballot initiatives that promote clean energy and reduce pollution. In 2016, voters in Florida took an important step toward a clean energy future by passing a statewide ballot initiative eliminating property taxes on solar energy and defeating a $26 million utility initiative that would have killed solar in the sunshine state. This year, voters in several states, including Arizona, Nevada and Washington will also be able to seize a clean energy future through ballot measures.

Securing commitments from candidates to move their state to 100 percent clean energy by 2050. Using New Jersey’s success as an example, we will continue to secure commitments from candidates up and down the ballot to commit to a 100 percent clean energy future.

Demonstrate the on-the-ground demand for clean energy and pollution-free communities. Our communities want clean energy, and they’re being heard: New Hampshirites are pushing cities like Concord to adopt plans for 100 percent renewable energy, and similar efforts are underway in cities across the country, from Wisconsin to Idaho, and New Jersey to Colorado.

Push for smart investments that reduce air pollution and protect our kids’ health. LCV and our state partners in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Connecticut, Maryland, and New York through the Clean Buses for Healthy Niños campaign are calling on governors and school boards to use state Volkswagen settlement funding to convert dirty diesel school bus fleets to zero-emissions electric buses. These are the types of investments that will bring us closer to pollution-free communities.

Conservation Voter Movement Clean Energy Progress Since Trump’s Election

Alaska — The Alaska Center

The Alaska Center was integral in Alaska’s Independent governor, Bill Walker, establishing a climate strategy through an executive order, which includes climate and clean energy directives for each department in the state and creates a Climate Action Leadership Team composed of multiple stakeholder groups. The Climate Action Leadership Team is charged with crafting a climate change mitigation and adaptation strategy for Alaska, which will be submitted to Governor Walker in September of this year. Additionally, the Alaska Center played a key role in Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz’ re-election. Berkowitz is a clean energy champion, who working with the city council, is pursuing a bold, local clean energy for his city.

Arizona — Chispa Arizona

In December of 2017, Chispa Arizona submitted 16,000 signatures in support of LCV’s Clean Buses for Healthy Niños campaign to Governor Doug Ducey, encouraging him to invest nearly $57 million in zero-emissions electric school buses to replace the aging diesel fleet in Arizona. Additionally, Chispa Arizona helped elect two new clean energy candidates to the board of a Phoenix-area water and electric utility. These new members will join two existing clean energy board members (for a total of four supporters) to prioritize clean energy initiatives and policy priorities moving forward at the utility. Chispa Arizona plans to collaborate with this delegation and the broader board on pricing processes and integrated resource planning.

California — California League of Conservation Voters

The California League of Conservation Voters played a pivotal role in the state legislature’s extension and strengthening of California’s landmark Cap and Trade program, as well as passage of AB 617, legislation that will improve air quality in the state’s most impacted communities. California’s legislators and Governor Brown sent a clear message to the rest of the nation and the world that California will continue to lead on climate — no matter what the Trump administration has to say about it.

Colorado — Conservation Colorado

Conservation Colorado played a key role in an executive order that Governor Hickenlooper issued in July 2017, which commits Colorado to the emissions reduction goals outlined in the Paris Climate Agreement. Conservation Colorado also helped pass legislation that makes Colorado the first state in the nation to affirm consumers’ right to store renewable energy on their property.

Connecticut — Connecticut League of Conservation Voters

The Connecticut League of Conservation Voters played a major role in the 2018 legislative session, shaping the future of climate action in this state for decades to come by securing legislative wins on an emissions reduction plan, expanding the renewable portfolio standard to 40 percent by 2030, establishing a statewide shared solar program, and allowing climate education to be taught in schools.

Florida — Florida Conservation Voters

Florida Conservation Voters (FCV) started the Florida-specific version of the Clean Buses for Healthy Niños campaign in April 2018. The goal is to persuade Governor Rick Scott (and any future governor) to spend the VW settlement money on replacing dirty diesel school buses with clean, electric school buses. FCV will mobilize its members and the general public to submit pro-clean buses comments to the governor and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection as they solicit public input on how to spend the VW settlement funds. As of May 14, FCV directed nearly 1,000 comments through the state’s web comment portal.

Illinois — Illinois Environmental Council

One month after the Trump election, Illinois Environmental Council worked — as part of the Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition with environmental, business and labor organizations — to pass the bipartisan Future Energy Jobs Act. This energy package will reduce Illinois’ carbon emissions by 50 percent of 2012 levels by 2030, increase solar in Illinois from 100 megawatts to 3,000 megawatts, bring 1,300 megawatts of new wind to Illinois, reduce energy usage by over 15 percent statewide, provide $1 billion to low-income communities through the Illinois solar for all program and low-income energy efficiency programs, and attract billions in investment to Illinois.

Georgia — Georgia Conservation Voters

On May 1, 2017, the Atlanta city council unanimously approved a city-wide goal of transitioning to 100 percent clean energy by 2035. Additionally, the Georgia state legislature passed legislation in 2017 that established fracking regulations. Georgia Conservation Voters will work to continue this progress.

Maine — Maine Conservation Voters

Maine Conservation Voters worked with key allies in the state legislature, as well as climate change partners throughout the state, to secure the legislature’s unanimous support of stronger RGGI emissions reductions targets through 2030. This will ensure deeper reductions in power plant pollution and increased investments in energy efficiency improvements across the state and region.

Maryland — Maryland League of Conservation Voters

In the 2017 legislative session, Maryland League of Conservation Voters (Maryland LCV) secured a legislative override of Governor Hogan’s veto of the Clean Energy Jobs Act — a bill that expanded the state’s commitment to purchasing renewable energy. Maryland LCV worked with state partners and legislative champions to successfully override the veto and to send a clear message to the clean energy industry: Maryland is open for business, and they will be leaders in combating climate change.

Massachusetts — The Environmental League of Massachusetts Action Fund

The Environmental League of Massachusetts Action Fund successfully pushed for landmark legislation requiring the development of the nation’s first utility-scale, offshore wind farm, which will produce 1,600 megawatts of offshore wind capacity. The winning bids for the first-round of solicitations will be announced by the end of May 2018.

Michigan — Michigan League of Conservation Voters

In 2017, the Michigan League of Conservation Voters (Michigan LCV) helped pass clean energy initiatives in the state legislature, including improvements in energy conservation at community colleges and in local school districts. Michigan LCV endorsed the ballot initiative and joined the campaign coalition that was critical in helping clean energy advocates and Michigan utility companies reach a compromise that set a goal for 50 percent of the energy generated by utilities to come from a combination of clean energy and energy efficiency measures by 2030.

Minnesota — Conservation Minnesota Voter Center

In the 2018 legislative session, Xcel Energy was pushing for legislation that would create a new process for recovering costs related to its nuclear plants, which are getting old and expensive to repair. Conservation Minnesota Voter Center, along with a diverse coalition of environmental and consumer groups, opposed the legislation because it put ratepayers at greater risk and it did not include clean energy provisions. In a major policy win, the legislation failed at the end of the legislative session.

Montana — Montana Conservation Voters

Governor Bullock, the pro-clean energy and LCV and Montana Conservation Voters endorsed candidate in 2016, vetoed two bills that would have rolled back rooftop solar laws in Montana and another which would have created a new registration fee on electric and hybrid vehicles.

Nebraska — Nebraska League of Conservation Voters

In 2017, Kearney, Nebraska built the largest solar project in the history of the state and the Omaha Public Power District, which is one of the three largest power providers in Nebraska, made a wind energy purchase that will increase its renewable energy portfolio to 50 percent by 2020. These achievements would not have been possible without the victories of NLCV’s endorsed clean-energy candidates in the 2016 election.

Nevada — Nevada Conservation League

Nevada Conservation League (NCL) worked to get 11 pro-clean energy bills passed in the 2017 legislative session, including bills signed into law that restore rooftop solar in Nevada, require the Public Utility Commission to establish energy savings goals, and create incentives for installing renewable energy storage systems. NCL also played a key role in passing legislation that would have set a statewide target of 40 percent renewable energy by 2030. Even though the governor ultimately vetoed this bill, it shows that Nevada is poised to be a national leader in clean energy.

New Jersey — New Jersey League of Conservation Voters

Spotlight in report

New Mexico — Conservation Voters of New Mexico

Conservation Voters New Mexico (CVNM) endorsed gubernatorial candidate Michelle Lujan Grisham, who committed to helping proactively pass legislation that would increase New Mexico’s renewable portfolio standard to at least 50 percent by 2030. In addition, Lujan Grisham has developed one of the broadest and most ambitious renewable energy platforms in America.

New York — New York League of Conservation Voters

New York League of Conservation Voters played a critical role in Governor Cuomo’s approval of the nation’s largest offshore wind project, as well as mapping out a plan for 2,400 megawatts of offshore wind by 2030. Additionally, Governor Cuomo has fought offshore drilling and committed to phasing out coal by 2020.

North Carolina — North Carolina League of Conservation Voters

In response to President Trump’s announcement to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Climate Agreement, the mayors of 12 municipalities in North Carolina committed to the emissions reductions targets in the Paris Climate Agreement, including Asheville, Chapel Hill, Charlotte, Durham, Greensboro, Raleigh, and Winston-Salem. Additionally, North Carolina League of Conservation Voters was integral in passing a bipartisan bill in 2017 that will boost small-scale solar installations and third-party sales. PowerUp NC, a project of NCLCV, started a green careers training program, which is retrofitting homes and teaching people new skills in weatherization and energy efficiency — creating jobs, reducing energy consumption, and lowering power bills.

Ohio — Ohio Environmental Council Action Fund

In December 2016, Governor Kasich vetoed the freeze on Ohio’s renewable energy standards and energy efficiency standards. The Ohio Environmental Council (OEC) worked with partners to help educate the governor on the environmental and economic benefits of the standards. In the 2017 legislative session, the OEC Action Fund was instrumental in killing four bills that would have forced ratepayers to pick up the tab for dirty coal plants and old, failing nuclear plants.

Oregon — Oregon League of Conservation Voters

In 2017, cities and counties across the state passed their own climate and clean energy plans, from Portland and Multnomah County’s 100 percent Clean Energy by 2050 to Bend’s Climate Action Plan.

Pennsylvania — Conservation Voters of Pennsylvania

In November 2017, Governor Tom Wolf signed into law a bipartisan bill that would require credited solar projects to be developed and sourced in-state. The law removes a major barrier that has stalled growth of the Commonwealth’s solar industry. In January, 2018, the state Senate passed a clean energy financing bill to enable local government Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy (C-PACE) programs in Pennsylvania. The bill will help Pennsylvania businesses invest in cost-saving energy efficiency projects, creating jobs and reducing energy costs.

South Carolina — Conservation Voters of South Carolina

With the collapse of a large nuclear project in South Carolina, a unique window opened up to make big progress on clean energy in the state. In response, Conservation Voters of South Carolina (CVSC) launched a multi-tiered campaign combining digital advocacy, community organizing, field engagement, accountability, and electoral efforts to raise the profile of clean energy and drive aggressive clean energy policy victories. During legislative session, CVSC had organizers collect pictures of voters with clean energy support notes — building a robust website and hand-delivering the final notes to the legislators. When the budget process came around, a bipartisan coalition in the State House voted to double the amount of solar net metering authorized in South Carolina, while a similar bipartisan group in the Senate added policies to expand utility-scale solar.

Tennessee — Tennessee Conservation Voters

In 2017, the Tennessee General Assembly passed a transportation funding overhaul that increased the tax on gasoline and allowed for Tennessee’s biggest cities to hold referenda on mass transit funding. Tennessee Conservation Voters played a key role in framing this to constituents and legislators as an environmental issue that incentivizes fuel efficiency and allows cities to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. This framing helped secure the votes to pass this legislation.

Vermont — Vermont Conservation Voters

Vermont’s Republican governor, Phil Scott, confirmed Vermont’s commitment to the goals of the Paris Climate Accord. Governor Scott stood with legislators, business innovators, utilities, municipal leaders and environmental organizations — including Vermont Conservation Voters (VCV) and the Vermont Natural Resources Council — when he made that public pledge. VCV remains hopeful that the governor will take the legislature’s lead and follow up on his pledge with action.

VCV also played a lead role in pushing lawmakers to take climate action through the budget passed in early May, including a $120,000 allocation to support an impartial examination of multiple decarbonization policies, including carbon pricing and cap and invest. The budget also expanded weatherization, including enabling the Vermont state treasurer to invest up to $5 million in residential weatherization loans, and the budget mandated that the $18.7 million Volkswagen settlement fund monies that Vermont will get will be used to support transportation electrification.

Virginia — Virginia League of Conservation Voters

Spotlight in report

Washington — Washington Conservation Voters

In 2017, Washington Conservation Voters (WCV) flipped the 45th legislative district to secure a pro-environment majority in the state legislature, enabling them to pass a state budget with significant funding for clean energy projects and environmental works. Additionally, WCV helped elect the second anti-oil terminal commissioner at the Port of Vancouver in 2017, which flipped that body to a clean energy majority, securing a denial of the largest oil by rail terminal in North America.

Wisconsin — Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters

By a unanimous vote at the end of March, the Eau Claire City Council passed a resolution to set a timeline to achieve a net-zero carbon footprint by 2050 at both the municipal and citywide levels, and to achieve 100 percent renewable energy for both the municipal government and citywide by 2050. The resolution was put forward by City Council Member Kate Beaton, who is also the western organizer for Wisconsin LCV.