In the late-1990s, several Northeast states and California deregulated their electric utility industry. As part of the deregulation process, state legislatures mandated small charges on ratepayers’ electric bills to create public benefit funds, which would be used to develop clean energy resources in their states. After the different state funds were created, their directors soon realized that they would benefit from sharing experiences with other states that had similar, newly created clean energy funds and missions. With support from several private foundations, the nonprofit Clean Energy Group worked with these fund directors in 1998 to create an informal consortium to share information and carry out joint research activities.

As Lew Milford, Clean Energy Group’s president, recalls, “Everything was new. These public benefit funds, established with the purpose of advancing clean and renewable energy generation, didn’t exist before. States had to figure out how to create effective programs to incentivize the deployment of clean energy technologies in their states. They were breaking new ground with every program they created. It made sense for them to share ideas on the best programs to establish and how to implement them.”

In October 2002, representatives from 12 states met to formally establish the Clean Energy States Alliance (CESA) as a member-supported organization to be managed by Clean Energy Group. Through CESA, states could combine efforts to create more effective strategies, programs, and finance tools.

More than a decade later, CESA now includes 15 states plus the District of Columbia. Its mission remains the same—to help the states learn from each other and to carry out group projects that advance their mutual interests.

Former Chair, Peter West of Energy Trust of Oregon, who has been actively involved since the first meeting in 2002, notes, “CESA has long been the place to incubate the “idea”—and then follow those ideas through program design and implementation strategies, with an eye to how the policy and financing experiments at the state and local level can be leveraged regionally and nationally to accelerate the clean energy economy.”

CESA’s staff provides information on best practices and practical advice to state clean energy agencies, as shown in the 2014 reports, Planning and Implementing a Solarize Initiative: A Guide for State Program Managers and the 2014 State Leadership in Clean Energy Awards: Outstanding Programs Found Here.  CESA and its members have advanced multi-state efforts to promote solar, wind, fuel cells, renewable thermal, and other clean technologies.

But much of the organization’s value rests with the information exchanges among the members at meetings, through webinars, and more informally. They share lessons learned, new program strategies, and challenges they are facing. This enables the states to more quickly advance clean energy at a lower cost.

CESA Board President Andrew Brydges of the Connecticut Green Bank notes that: “In this rapidly growing and evolving industry, CESA provides ongoing and valuable opportunities to learn about, collaborate on, and implement strategies that help expand clean energy adoption, while using ratepayer funds efficiently and effectively.”

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This blog post was originally published in the Clean Energy States Alliance (CESA)’s 2015 report Clean Energy Champions: The Importance of State Policies and Programs. This report provides the first-ever comprehensive look at the ways states are advancing clean energy and suggests how to further encourage clean energy growth.

This blog post was also published on Renewable Energy World.