Worst States in Energy Production from Renewables

Coal conveyor at a West Virginia mine. Lonnie Duka/Photolibrary/Getty

The Clean Power Plan proposes guidelines for individual states to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from fossil-fuel power plants. The national reduction goal is 26% of the 2005 carbon dioxide emissions by year 2020, and 30% by 2030. The plan will set specific emissions limits for each state, based on their current mix of electricity generation sources. States must present how they anticipate meeting those goals in a proposal due June 30, 2016.

Some states already are far ahead of the rest in renewable electricity production. Others try to protect their fossil fuel industry, discourage policies encouraging the development of renewables, or even directly attack the EPA’s efforts by means of legal challenges. A recent report by Earthjustice, an environmental law non-profit organization, presents an analysis of each state’s electricity production, and the challenges they face to meet the goals set forth by the Clean Power Plan. Here is a look at the worst-performing states in terms of electricity production from renewables.

Ranking Data Examined

Earthjustice started by using 2012 data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration about the sources of electricity produced in each state. In addition, consideration was given to more recent advancements in solar and wind power, voluntary or mandatory state-issued goals, and documented reductions in carbon emissions.

Energy from biomass and nuclear fuel was not included in the renewable energy totals, as Earthjustice considers phases of their production, use, and waste management either not renewable or unsustainable. Similarly, power from hydroelectric sources was not considered one of the preferred renewables, as there are many environmental issues associated with medium and large hydroelectric projects.

The Worst States

In alphabetical order:

Alabama has no goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from electricity production – not even to the modest 9% level suggested by the EPA’s Clean Power Plan. In fact, the state is part of a lawsuit against the EPA’s goals of limiting emissions from coal-fired power plants.

Arkansas has the dubious distinction of having had the greatest increase in greenhouse gas emissions between 2005 and 2012 – a 35% jump. No effort has been made to use the abundant solar resources for Arkansas public utilities. As of 2012, this state produced 44% of its electricity from burning coal.

Louisiana is a large fossil fuel energy producer, mostly oil and natural gas. It is also a large energy consumer, per capita, in part due to high air-conditioner needs. It relies on gas and coal for most of its electricity production, with apparently no plan to change that.

Mississippi relies on gas, coal, and nuclear power to produce its electricity, with no renewable and sustainable energy goals in the works. Approximately 3% of its power comes from wood waste combustion, which produces greenhouse gas emissions.

Ohio is in coal country, producing 66% of its electricity from it. Plans for increasing reliance on renewable energy have stalled for political reasons.

Ohio also took part in a lawsuit against the EPA’s efforts to limit emissions from coal power plants.

West Virginia is another coal state, with seemingly little political will to confront the powerful coal industry. It relies on coal for 96% of its electricity production.


Earthjustice. 2014. Coming Clean: The State of U.S. Renewable Energy.