California And Massachusetts Dominate In Latest Clean Tech Leadership Rankings

As many states improve in their renewable energy policies and adoption, the competition for the tops spots in the ranking gets tougher each year. But other states are hardly trying at all.

The exuberant Silicon Valley investments in the cleantech sector of a few years ago may have faded, but California still is the top state for clean technology leadership. That’s according to the annual Clean Tech Leadership rankings, which look at the states and metro areas that lead in policy, implementation, and investments.


California has been the number one state overall for the past five years, and its cities dominates five of the top seven spots on the metro index. It’s tops in technology, and comes in second place in policy and capital (normalized for population, Massachusetts takes first in those categories). “The biggest mover in cities is San Diego, which jumped from seventh place to third. San Diego has made cleantech a priority in economic development,” says Clint Wilder, senior editor at Clean Edge.

There aren’t too many big surprises in the state rankings. States that are known for leadership, like Colorado, New York, Oregon, Washington, and Massachusetts, rank towards the top. States that actively ignore solar, wind, and other sustainable technologies (or disparage it, in some cases), like North Dakota, Alaska, West Virginia, and Mississippi, are at the bottom.

This year, Vermont and Connecticut jumped up in to the top 10, while Hawaii and Minnesota moved out of the top-ranked spots.

“Generally, when we see drops its more because other states have done better. There are too many examples of a state pushing into cleantech that made a conscious decision to stop,” says Wilder. Ohio, for example, recently passed a two-year freeze on its Renewable Portfolio Standard law, which requires utilities to get 25% of electricity from alternative energy sources (any alternative to fossil fuels) and 12.5% from renewable sources by 2025. That particular bit of news isn’t reflected in the rankings because it happened so recently.

Some bottom-ranking metro areas in the report get a leadership score of 0. “There are states with zero venture capital dollars invested in clean energy companies over the past three years,” says Wilder. “In places like Birmingham, Louisville, Memphis, Jacksonville–their chambers of commerce aren’t talking about trying to get cleantech companies to locate in those place.”

Take the the category for clean electricity and carbon management, in which Sacramento gets a 100, San Diego gets a score of 99.5, and Birmingham gets a 0. The reason: Birmingham has one ’70s-era coal plant that’s so dirty it makes the metro area’s electricity mix incredibly carbon intensive. Closing that plant would make a big difference, but that isn’t a priority in the state.


For the most part, the rankings are looking up from last year. “The growth of solar has been nothing short of stunning, and EV sales more than tripled,” says Wilder. “One thing we do try and spotlight in this report is that it’s not just a story of California and Massachusetts and New York. There are strong pockets of leadership in many, many places.”

Check out the slideshow above for infographics from the report.


About the author

Ariel Schwartz is a Senior Editor at Co.Exist. She has contributed to SF Weekly, Popular Science, Inhabitat, Greenbiz, NBC Bay Area, GOOD Magazine and more.