The States And Cities That Lead (And Lag) In The Clean-Tech Economy

In short: one state handily beats all the rest. But there are some dark horses that you might not associate with clean energy doing better than you would guess.

When it comes to clean tech, America could do with some Californication. The state is beating everywhere else hands down, from public policy and capital invested to adoption of electric vehicles and smart meters.


A new ranking of clean-tech leadership from research firm Clean Edge gives the Golden State a score of 91.7 out of 100. The next highest ranked state, Massachusetts, comes in with a score of 77.8. Clean Edge’s state scores combine 70 indicators, while the metro scores look at 20 factors, including things like green buildings and levels of clean electricity.

The top two cities–San Francisco and San Jose–score 89.2 and 80.3, respectively, with Portland far behind at 62.8. Los Angeles (56.1), Sacramento (55.6), and San Diego (54.7) take up 4th, 6th, and 7th places (Washington D.C. comes in 5th).

It’s not all bad for the rest of the states. Massachusetts scores well on its venture capital investment and the strength of its research universities. Oregon (72.8) has the highest number of green jobs as a proportion of employment.

“California is blessed with two major advantages over many other states,” says Ron Pernick, Cleanedge’s managing director. “This includes relatively abundant, easily tapped renewable energy resources and an even greater abundance of early-adopters who want the latest clean-tech products and breakthroughs.”

The top five states do well across most indicators. Other states do some good things, but fall down elsewhere, he says. “The states that rank at the bottom of our list have few notable clean-tech activities. But, even there, you can find interesting activity. For example, Mississippi and Louisiana are successfully courting clean-tech companies and doing workforce development.”

States that do badly overall still score well for certain things. North Dakota is in 48th place (16.5 points), but generates 15% of its power from wind. Minnesota comes in at 9th place, but still powers itself with 14% wind. Both states would make the top 10 countries globally (if the states were countries). And Texas (40.9) generates half as much wind power as Germany, despite being a fraction the size.

It’s noticeable that the better performing states and cities lean left politically. But, again, there are exceptions, says Pernick. “When Romney was attacking clean tech in the last election cycle, Republican governors in the Great Plains stood up for wind energy. At the end of the day, clean energy has broad public support and can transcend political boundaries.”

About the author

Ben Schiller is a New York staff writer for Fast Company. Previously, he edited a European management magazine and was a reporter in San Francisco, Prague, and Brussels.