How California dominates in clean tech leadership

How California dominates in clean tech leadership

San Francisco skyline.

The epicenter of clean-energy leadership in the United States is San Francisco, according to a new report released today by research firm Clean Edge. But cities as diverse as Austin, Texas; Boston; Denver; and Portland, Ore., also are shaking things up.

At the top of the latest edition of Clean Edge’s annual “U.S. Clean Tech Leadership Index,” which contains point-based state- and metro-level indices, stand California and San Francisco, respectively.

Based on more than 70 technology, policy and capital indicators, California led all states in the data-rich ranking for the fifth consecutive year, followed by Massachusetts, Oregon, Colorado, New York, New Mexico, Washington, Illinois, Vermont and Connecticut.

“The Golden State’s clean-tech prominence is broad and deep; it leads the technology category handily and ranks a very close second in both policy and capital,” detailed the report, an advanced copy of which was supplied to GreenBiz.

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“With enviable solar, wind and geothermal resources, a green-minded populace, and generally effective policy levers at every level of government, California places No. 1 in all three subcategories of clean technology deployment: electricity, transportation, and energy efficiency/green buildings,” it added.

Massachusetts, however, edged out California in policy and capital indicators. The commonwealth’s leadership in those two categories “proves that states without robust clean-energy resources can still be national leaders,” noted the report.

Ranking third overall, Oregon trailed only California in Clean Edge’s technology category, showing particular strength in hybrid and pure electric vehicles, charging infrastructure and green buildings.

But even some states that lagged in the overall ranking excelled in some notable specific areas of the report. Iowa and South Dakota, despite being indexed at No. 23 and No. 39 overall, led all states in non-hydro utility-scale renewable energy generation. By tapping their abundant wind energy resources, Iowa and South Dakota were the only states in the nation to generate more than a quarter of their electricity from renewable resources in 2013.

“Climate disruption and the growing availability of market-competitive clean-energy technologies are driving many states and cities to tackle climate issues head-on,” said Clean Edge’s founder and managing director, Ron Pernick.

Kansas, Idaho, Minnesota and North Dakota each exceeded 15 percent renewable energy on the grid.

“More than ever, this year’s Leadership Index highlights how some top regions are taking climate action seriously, with double-digit clean-energy adoption rates, new policies like California’s energy-storage mandate, and the deployment of clean-energy investment vehicles such as New York’s green bank,” Pernick added.

The metro index — which relies on 20 indicators related to green buildings, advanced transportation, clean power, investment, innovation and jobs — ranks the 50 largest U.S. metropolitan areas. Not surprisingly, California cities swept the top three spots, led by San Francisco, San Jose and San Diego. Rounding out the top 10 are Portland; Sacramento; Boston; Los Angeles; Washington, D.C.; Austin; and Denver.

The nation’s capitol scored highest in Clean Edge’s green buildings category, based on data from the U.S. Green Building Council and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. San Francisco led in advanced transportation, while Sacramento ranked No. 1 in clean electricity and carbon management. Silicon Valley’s San Jose topped all major U.S. metro areas in clean-tech investment, innovation and workforce.

While the authors maintain a positive tone throughout the report, the index does also expose underperformers, such as Mississippi and West Virginia, which rank at the bottom of the state index, and Birmingham, Ala., and New Orleans, at No. 50 and No. 49, respectively, in the metro index.

By providing a data-driven resource for comparing the clean-tech leadership of U.S. cities and states, the annual index can serve as a useful tool to such low-ranking regions, whose own clean-tech leaders can track their progress in future years — but only by first understanding their shortcomings.

Top image of San Francisco, the top-ranking metro area in the Clean Edge report, by Pal Teravagimov via Shutterstock.