States with the biggest household carbon footprints

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August 13, 2020
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States with the biggest household carbon footprints

The environmental and socioeconomic threats posed by climate change prompted calls from people around the world to curtail, if not eliminate, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Leaders from 197 countries in 2015 committed to preventing global temperatures from reaching 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels by reducing their carbon footprints, a commitment codified by the Paris Agreement.

The United States, however, plans to withdraw from the Paris Agreement on Nov. 4, a decision President Donald Trump announced in 2017. While the federal government prepares to exit the international accord, 24 governors remain committed to its goals, including reducing GHG emissions by 26–28% below 2005 levels by 2025. Each state faces different obstacles to decrease its carbon footprint, particularly in a sector that consists of about 20% of the U.S.’s energy-related emissions: households.

To examine the household carbon footprints in every state in the contiguous U.S., Stacker consulted a paper by Goldstein, Dimitrios Gounaridis, and Joshua Newell, all scientists from the University of Michigan, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in July 2020. They developed models and used data from the Energy Information Administration’s 2015 Residential Energy Consumption Survey to determine the average household fuel and electricity demand in the continental U.S. and Washington D.C. Each of the 48 states and the nation’s capital are ranked according to their household GHG intensity, a measure of the total CO2 emissions that households in the state produce. GHG intensity is expressed here in CO2 emitted per square meter of building area. Stacker also provides each state’s total building energy intensity, measured in kilowatt hours of power used per square meter of building area, and total thermal demand, measured in degree days.

Benjamin Goldstein, an environmental scientist from the University of Michigan, told Stacker that while replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy sources will help reduce GHG emissions, U.S. residents must alter certain living conditions if the nation hopes to meet Paris Agreement goals. Installing heat pumps can improve efficiency for heating and cooling, he said, and his research indicates that decreasing floor space typically equates to a “smaller carbon footprint.”

“If you care for the environment, then waiting for the grid to green is not enough,” he told Stacker. “There are numerous actions that you can take to aid decarbonization.”

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#49. California

- Household GHG intensity: 23 CO2 emitted per m2 (51.1% below national average)
- Household building energy intensity: 110 kilowatt hours per m2 (#3 lowest among states, 25.2% below national average)
- Household thermal demand: 3,370 degree days (#1 lowest, 44.1% below national average)

While California is the second-largest carbon dioxide (CO2) emitting state in the nation, the residential sector accounted for only 7% of emissions as of 2017. Energy use and GHG emissions typically align with carbon (CO2) emissions in western states like California, according to Goldstein and his colleagues. Energy consumption per capita in the state ranked 48 in the nation in 2018, according to the Energy Information Administration, and declined from 2000 to 2017, according to the California Air Resources Board. California ranks first in the nation for solar generation, which accounts for 20.7% of the state’s electricity.

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#46. Utah (tie)

- Household GHG intensity: 34 CO2 emitted per m2 (27.7% below national average)
- Household building energy intensity: 150 kilowatt hours per m2 (#15 lowest among states, 2.0% above national average)
- Household thermal demand: 6,082 degree days (#24 highest, 0.8% above national average)

The CO2 emissions from Utah account for 1.1% of the national output, although per-capita emissions are high due to the state’s reliance on and generation of coal-powered electricity. The state produced 66% of its energy from coal-fired plants in 2018, down from 81% in 2014. While fossil fuels dominate Utah’s energy generation and output, utility companies plan to close several coal plants over the next two decades, according to the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute. State lawmakers also embraced a plan to tackle climate change with CO2 emission reduction targets similar to the GHG reduction goals in the Paris Agreement.

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#46. Oregon (tie)

- Household GHG intensity: 34 CO2 emitted per m2 (27.7% below national average)
- Household building energy intensity: 138 kilowatt hours per m2 (#11 lowest among states, 6.1% below national average)
- Household thermal demand: 4,882 degree days (#11 lowest, 19.1% below national average)

Oregon ranks 38th in the nation for C02 emissions, and 39th for total energy use per capita. Households, however, accounted for 80% of energy consumption-based CO2 emissions in Oregon in 2015, according to a 2018 report, with higher-income residences generating more emissions than lower-income households. While natural gas remains a top energy commodity for the state, hydroelectric surpassed it in 2018 as the most consumed source of energy, according to the EIA. Hydroelectric power also accounts for 70% of the state’s energy generation output, and wind power accounts for 12%, the EIA reported.

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#46. Washington (tie)

- Household GHG intensity: 34 CO2 emitted per m2 (27.7% below national average)
- Household building energy intensity: 137 kilowatt hours per m2 (#10 lowest among states, 6.8% below national average)
- Household thermal demand: 5,439 degree days (#18 lowest, 9.8% below national average)

Washington serves as the top hydroelectric power producer in the nation, and hydroelectric was consumed more than any other energy source in the state as of 2018. Despite its renewable energy generation output, the state ranks 25th in the nation for CO2 emissions, and 32nd in total energy use per capita. CO2 emissions have increased overall between 2012 and 2017, although they remain below 2008 levels. Washington officials, however, aim to make the state GHG-neutral by 2030, and generate all energy from non-carbon emitting sources by 2045, according to the state Department of Ecology.

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#45. Montana

- Household GHG intensity: 36 CO2 emitted per m2 (23.4% below national average)
- Household building energy intensity: 167 kilowatt hours per m2 (#25 highest among states, 13.6% above national average)
- Household thermal demand: 7,188 degree days (#9 highest, 19.1% above national average)

Montana contributed less than 1% of total C02 emissions in the U.S. as of 2014. GHG emissions in the state rose about 13% between 1990 and 2017, according to the EIA, and residential emissions increased by 21.4% during that period. Temperature extremes and a small population contribute to the state ranking second in energy use per capita.

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#44. Idaho

- Household GHG intensity: 37 CO2 emitted per m2 (21.3% below national average)
- Household building energy intensity: 159 kilowatt hours per m2 (#21 lowest among states, 8.2% above national average)
- Household thermal demand: 6,483 degree days (#19 highest, 7.5% above national average)

Idaho experienced an 17% increase in CO2 emissions from 2005 to 2017, the largest spike out of any state in the nation for that period. But with a small population and 81% of its energy deriving from renewables, primarily from hydroelectric power, Idaho ranks 43 in the nation for CO2 emissions. Natural gas consumption per capita is in the bottom one-third nationally despite low winter temperatures and about half of homes using it as their primary heat source.

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#42. Massachusetts (tie)

- Household GHG intensity: 40 CO2 emitted per m2 (14.9% below national average)
- Household building energy intensity: 181 kilowatt hours per m2 (#16 highest among states, 23.1% above national average)
- Household thermal demand: 6,981 degree days (#13 highest, 15.7% above national average)

High population density typically results in housing with smaller floor area per capita (FAC), which usually correlates with fewer GHG emissions, according to the University of Michigan professors’ paper. While 67% of energy used in the state was derived from natural gas in 2018, according to the EIA, programs like the Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target (SMART) incentive program helped propel the state to rank eighth in the nation for solar electricity generation.

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#42. Nevada (tie)

- Household GHG intensity: 40 CO2 emitted per m2 (14.9% below national average)
- Household building energy intensity: 121 kilowatt hours per m2 (#5 lowest among states, 17.7% below national average)
- Household thermal demand: 5,003 degree days (#14 lowest, 17.1% below national average)

Nevada consumers use natural gas for energy more than any other source by a wide margin. The state consumes 86% of its energy from out-of-state sources, according to the EIA, but it ranks second in the nation for geothermal electricity production, and sixth in solar power generation.

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#40. Connecticut (tie)

- Household GHG intensity: 41 CO2 emitted per m2 (12.8% below national average)
- Household building energy intensity: 181 kilowatt hours per m2 (#16 highest among states, 23.1% above national average)
- Household thermal demand: 6,856 degree days (#14 highest, 13.6% above national average)

Connecticut has the third-lowest energy-intensive economy in the nation, behind Massachusetts and New York. While 35% of households in the state rely on natural gas for heat, and 45% rely on fuel oil, 43% of its electricity generation derives from the Millstone Nuclear Station, according to the EIA. The state ranks 41 in the nation for CO2 emissions, which declined 10.5% between 1990 and 2017.

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#40. South Carolina (tie)

- Household GHG intensity: 41 CO2 emitted per m2 (12.8% below national average)
- Household building energy intensity: 123 kilowatt hours per m2 (#6 lowest among states, 16.3% below national average)
- Household thermal demand: 4,325 degree days (#4 lowest, 28.3% below national average)

While natural gas deliveries to South Carolina for electricity have quadrupled in the last decade, consumers in the state use nuclear power more than any other energy source, with four plants supplying more than half of the state’s energy. Emissions fell 20% in South Carolina between 2005 and 2017.

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#36. Vermont (tie)

- Household GHG intensity: 42 CO2 emitted per m2 (10.6% below national average)
- Household building energy intensity: 205 kilowatt hours per m2 (#2 highest among states, 39.5% above national average)
- Household thermal demand: 8,222 degree days (#3 highest, 36.3% above national average)

Vermont has a smaller energy consumption than anywhere else in the nation, although it equates to four times as much as the state generates. Emissions fell 14% in Vermont between 2005 and 2017, added in part by forestland serving as a carbon sink. While many consumers in the state rely on petroleum, natural gas, and wood for heating, hydroelectric energy is the top power source consumed, according to the EIA. The state also generates almost all of its energy from renewables. Despite Vermont being one of the three most energy-intensive states in the nation due to heating during extensive cold weather, “high energy intensity can be compensated using low-carbon fuels,” Goldstein said.

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#36. Rhode Island (tie)

- Household GHG intensity: 42 CO2 emitted per m2 (10.6% below national average)
- Household building energy intensity: 188 kilowatt hours per m2 (#12 highest among states, 27.9% above national average)
- Household thermal demand: 6,485 degree days (#18 highest, 7.5% above national average)

Rhode Island is one of nine states participating in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), the country’s first compulsory cap-and-trade program. In it, proceeds from CO2 allowance auctions are invested by states into a number of programs for consumers including renewable energy, energy bill assistance, and energy efficiency. The state also offers residents and businesses National Grid energy efficiency programs and net metering for customers with eligible renewable energy systems whereby residents can earn energy credits on their billing statements.

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#36. Georgia (tie)

- Household GHG intensity: 42 CO2 emitted per m2 (10.6% below national average)
- Household building energy intensity: 121 kilowatt hours per m2 (#5 lowest among states, 17.7% below national average)
- Household thermal demand: 4,315 degree days (#3 lowest, 28.5% below national average)

High population density in Georgia results in smaller housing and lower FAC, keeping GHG intensity low among households, according to Goldstein and his colleagues. An expected population growth could help the state reduce CO2 emissions, although residential emissions increased 8.3% from 1990 to 2017. While most of the energy Georgia generates and consumes derive from carbon emitting sources, solar energy development is on the rise, with it currently ranked ninth in the nation.

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#36. Arizona (tie)

- Household GHG intensity: 42 CO2 emitted per m2 (10.6% below national average)
- Household building energy intensity: 103 kilowatt hours per m2 (#2 lowest among states, 29.9% below national average)
- Household thermal demand: 4,437 degree days (#5 lowest, 26.5% below national average)

Warm temperatures help keep household building energy intensity—and therefore GHG intensity—low in Arizona, according to the University of Michigan professors’ paper. Solar power accounts for 7.02% of Arizona’s electricity, helping rank third in the nation for solar generation.

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#35. North Carolina

- Household GHG intensity: 43 CO2 emitted per m2 (8.5% below national average)
- Household building energy intensity: 137 kilowatt hours per m2 (#10 lowest among states, 6.8% below national average)
- Household thermal demand: 4,680 degree days (#10 lowest, 22.4% below national average)

Net GHG emissions in North Carolina fell 24% between 2005 and 2017, a decrease expected to widen to 31% by 2025. North Carolina reported that residential emissions, which accounted for 3.5% of the state total, experienced a net drop by 21.7% since 2005. Nuclear energy typically accounts for the largest share of electricity generation in the state, but natural gas surpassed it in 2018 at 33%, compared to 31% for nuclear. Solar energy generation is growing in North Carolina, which today ranks second in the nation.

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#33. New Hampshire (tie)

- Household GHG intensity: 44 CO2 emitted per m2 (6.4% below national average)
- Household building energy intensity: 196 kilowatt hours per m2 (#6 highest among states, 33.3% above national average)
- Household thermal demand: 7,868 degree days (#5 highest, 30.4% above national average)

New Hampshire accounted for less than 1% of U.S. GHG emissions in 2014. The state, however, still houses two of the three operating coal-fired plants in New England, and 40% of residents rely on fuel oil as a primary heat source. While the overall release of GHG emissions has remained relatively flat since 1990, New Hampshire hopes to generate 25% of its energy from renewables in five years. The state incentivizes residential solar and wind power with various rebate programs.

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#33. Washington D.C. (tie)

- Household GHG intensity: 44 CO2 emitted per m2 (6.4% below national average)
- Household building energy intensity: 160 kilowatt hours per m2 (#22 lowest among states, 8.8% above national average)
- Household thermal demand: 5,731 degree days (#20 lowest, 5.0% below national average)

Washington D.C.’s GHG emissions fell 30% between 2006 and 2017. The nation’s capital was one of the cities in the U.S. with most Energy-Star certified buildings for energy efficiency in 2018, and has more electric vehicle charging stations than gas stations. Solar panels on homes and buildings generate almost half of the city’s electricity.

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#30. Virginia (tie)

- Household GHG intensity: 45 CO2 emitted per m2 (4.3% below national average)
- Household building energy intensity: 150 kilowatt hours per m2 (#15 lowest among states, 2.0% above national average)
- Household thermal demand: 5,434 degree days (#17 lowest, 9.9% below national average)

Virginia, which will become an active participant in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative starting in 2021, aims to generate 100% of its electricity from renewables by 2045. The state offers several incentives for residents to help meet its renewable goals, including funding for heating and cooling systems upgrades that increase energy efficiency for low-income households and a program that allows county and municipal governments to grant local property tax abatement for energy efficient buildings. The state, however, still relies heavily on fossil fuels, with 53% of its net generated energy deriving from natural gas and 10% coming from coal.

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#30. New Mexico (tie)

- Household GHG intensity: 45 CO2 emitted per m2 (4.3% below national average)
- Household building energy intensity: 147 kilowatt hours per m2 (#13 lowest among states, 0.0% above national average)
- Household thermal demand: 4,988 degree days (#13 lowest, 17.3% below national average)

While only accounting for about 1% of the nation’s GHG emissions as of 2014, New Mexico the state produces 70% more emissions per capita than the U.S. average. The state is one of the top natural gas producers in the nation, accounting for 4% of national natural gas production. New Mexico aims to generate all of its electricity from zero-carbon emitting sources by 2045.

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#30. Florida (tie)

- Household GHG intensity: 45 CO2 emitted per m2 (4.3% below national average)
- Household building energy intensity: 97 kilowatt hours per m2 (#1 lowest among states, 34.0% below national average)
- Household thermal demand: 4,233 degree days (#2 lowest, 29.8% below national average)

A warm climate helps place Florida among the three states with the lowest household building energy intensity, according to the University of Michigan professor’s study, which affects household GHG intensity. Florida consumes more energy than 36 other states, with natural gas serving as the primary power commodity, but ranks 49 in total energy use per capita. Natural Gas fueled 70% of the state’s electricity generation in 2018, according to the EIA. While the state lacks voluntary targets for meeting a certain percentage of its electricity from renewables, it ranks fourth in the nation for solar power generation, which accounts for two percent of the state’s energy output.

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#28. New Jersey (tie)

- Household GHG intensity: 46 CO2 emitted per m2 (2.1% below national average)
- Household building energy intensity: 195 kilowatt hours per m2 (#7 highest among states, 32.7% above national average)
- Household thermal demand: 6,192 degree days (#23 highest, 2.6% above national average)

New Jersey's residential sector accounts for just 16% of the state's overall GHG emissions. About three-fourths of households in the state use natural gas as their primary heating fuel, and about 10% rely on petroleum products, according to the EIA. New Jersey in 2020 rejoined the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, establishing a goal of receiving 100% of its energy from renewables.

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#28. Maryland (tie)

- Household GHG intensity: 46 CO2 emitted per m2 (2.1% below national average)
- Household building energy intensity: 156 kilowatt hours per m2 (#19 lowest among states, 6.1% above national average)
- Household thermal demand: 5,860 degree days (#22 lowest, 2.9% below national average)

Maryland ranks 35 in the nation for CO2 emissions and 42 in total energy use per capita. The state’s GHG emissions fell 38% between 2005 and 2017, more than any other state during that time. Maryland plans to receive 100% of its electricity from zero-carbon sources by 2040, in part with help from rebates, tax credits, grants and loans for residential users.

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#26. New York (tie)

- Household GHG intensity: 47 CO2 emitted per m2 (0.0% above national average)
- Household building energy intensity: 201 kilowatt hours per m2 (#4 highest among states, 36.7% above national average)
- Household thermal demand: 7,183 degree days (#10 highest, 19.1% above national average)

New York contributed the ninth-most GHG emissions out of any state in the nation as of 2014, accounting for more than 2% of the national output. The residential sector, as of 2016, accounted for 21% of emissions, and decreased 22% since 1990. Unlike other states, population density in New York fuels high GHG emissions, particularly due to New York City’s heavy reliance on fossil fuels for electricity, according to Goldstein and his colleagues. The state, however, adopted an energy strategy in 2019 that calls for 100% carbon-free electricity by 2040 and an 85% drop in GHG emissions by 2050.

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#26. Delaware (tie)

- Household GHG intensity: 47 CO2 emitted per m2 (0.0% above national average)
- Household building energy intensity: 175 kilowatt hours per m2 (#21 highest among states, 19.0% above national average)
- Household thermal demand: 5,859 degree days (#21 lowest, 2.9% below national average)

In Delaware, 44% of households use natural gas, about 10% using fuel oil and almost 10% using propane. Residential GHG emissions in the state have remained relatively flat overall between 1990 and 2016, albeit with wide fluctuations in between due to weather and shifting fuel use, but are expected to climb 21.7% by 2030 as a result of increased hydrofluorocarbons. To help generate enough renewable energy to meet 50% of its electricity needs by 2030, Delaware has partnered with utilities to offer grants that help offset installation costs for clean energy systems.

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#25. Texas

- Household GHG intensity: 49 CO2 emitted per m2 (4.3% above national average)
- Household building energy intensity: 133 kilowatt hours per m2 (#8 lowest among states, 9.5% below national average)
- Household thermal demand: 4,623 degree days (#9 lowest, 23.4% below national average)

Texas emits more GHG emissions than any other state in the nation, accounting for almost 13% of the national total in 2014. The state, the largest energy consumer and producer, also ranks sixth in total energy use per capita. While Texas produces more natural gas than any other state, it also generates the most energy from wind energy, accounting for 28% of the national output in 2019, according to the EIA.

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#24. Louisiana

- Household GHG intensity: 50 CO2 emitted per m2 (6.4% above national average)
- Household building energy intensity: 145 kilowatt hours per m2 (#12 lowest among states, 1.4% below national average)
- Household thermal demand: 4,517 degree days (#8 lowest, 25.1% below national average)

Louisiana was among the top 10 states in the nation for overall GHG emissions, emissions per unit of GDP and per person in 2014 as a result of its extensive natural gas and oil production. The state also ranks second in both energy use per capita and electricity use for capita among residences. Almost all households use air conditioning, according to the EIA.

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#22. Pennsylvania (tie)

- Household GHG intensity: 51 CO2 emitted per m2 (8.5% above national average)
- Household building energy intensity: 194 kilowatt hours per m2 (#9 highest among states, 32.0% above national average)
- Household thermal demand: 6,409 degree days (#20 highest, 6.2% above national average)

Gov. Tom Wolf plans to have Pennsylvania join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, codifying a plan for the state to reduce emissions 80% by 2050, but the move has come under challenge by the state house of representatives. As the governor attempts to pursue a new effort to combat climate change, Pennsylvania ranks second in the nation for natural gas, third in coal production, and fourth in CO2 emissions. The state, however, experienced a drop 23% in emissions between 2005 and 2017. About 50% of Pennsylvania households are heated primarily with natural gas.

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#22. Colorado (tie)

- Household GHG intensity: 51 CO2 emitted per m2 (8.5% above national average)
- Household building energy intensity: 152 kilowatt hours per m2 (#18 lowest among states, 3.4% above national average)
- Household thermal demand: 6,591 degree days (#16 highest, 9.2% above national average)

Colorado, which adopted the first voter-led Renewable Energy Standard in the nation in 2004, aims to generate all electricity from renewable sources by 2040 and reduce GHG emissions by 90% below 2005 levels by 2050. Renewable energy accounted for 25% of net electricity generation in Colorado in 2019. The state, however, produces the seventh largest amount of natural gas in the U.S., and produces 45% of its net energy generation from coal, according to the EIA. About 75% of homes in Colorado are heated with natural gas, and 54% of home energy expenditures are allocated toward heating. Goldstein and his research partners, however, believe household GHG emissions could fall as FAC is expected to decrease by 26% as the population grows over time.

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#21. Maine

- Household GHG intensity: 52 CO2 emitted per m2 (10.6% above national average)
- Household building energy intensity: 220 kilowatt hours per m2 (#1 highest among states, 49.7% above national average)
- Household thermal demand: 8,301 degree days (#2 highest, 37.6% above national average)

The cold climate in Maine drives up heat usage enough to rank it among the top three states in the nation for energy intensity, according to Goldstein and his fellow University of Michigan scientists. While the state generates 80% of its electricity from renewables, 24% of which derives from wind power, biomass, a GHG emitting renewable energy source, accounted for 25% of its energy generation. According to the EIA, almost two-thirds of homes in the state use fuel oil for heating. The University of Michigan researchers also wrote in their study that heavy use of carbon-intensive fuels for heating can reduce the benefits of a low-carbon grid.

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#19. Ohio (tie)

- Household GHG intensity: 54 CO2 emitted per m2 (14.9% above national average)
- Household building energy intensity: 178 kilowatt hours per m2 (#18 highest among states, 21.1% above national average)
- Household thermal demand: 6,398 degree days (#22 highest, 6.0% above national average)

A decrease in coal-powered electricity plants resulting from the increase in natural-gas power plants helped Ohio reduce emissions by almost 20% between 2005 and 2014, but the state remains among the top 10 coal consumers in the nation. State lawmakers reduced Ohio’s Renewable Portfolio Standard target from 12.5% to 8.5% of its electricity deriving from clean energy sources by 2026.

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#19. Arkansas (tie)

- Household GHG intensity: 54 CO2 emitted per m2 (14.9% above national average)
- Household building energy intensity: 157 kilowatt hours per m2 (#20 lowest among states, 6.8% above national average)
- Household thermal demand: 5,054 degree days (#15 lowest, 16.2% below national average)

Arkansas, which produces 1.5% of the U.S.’s natural gas output, ranks 29th in the nation for CO2 emissions and 17th for energy consumption per capita. Arkansas’s CO2 increased 7% between 2005 and 2017. Natural gas dominates both energy generation and use in the state, but 22% of its electricity was generated from nuclear power in 2019, according to the EIA.

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#18. Michigan

- Household GHG intensity: 55 CO2 emitted per m2 (17.0% above national average)
- Household building energy intensity: 188 kilowatt hours per m2 (#12 highest among states, 27.9% above national average)
- Household thermal demand: 7,051 degree days (#12 highest, 16.9% above national average)

Despite CO2 emissions falling 20% between 2005 and 2017, Michigan ranks 10 in the nation for them. The state generated 32% of its electricity from coal, 30% from natural gas, and 8% from renewables as of 2019, according to the EIA. Michigan’s Renewable Energy Standard calls renewables to fuel 15% of its electricity by 2021, but no additional clean energy policies have been adopted at the time of writing.

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#17. Tennessee

- Household GHG intensity: 56 CO2 emitted per m2 (19.1% above national average)
- Household building energy intensity: 152 kilowatt hours per m2 (#18 lowest among states, 3.4% above national average)
- Household thermal demand: 4,964 degree days (#12 lowest, 17.7% below national average)

Tennessee consumes more natural gas than any other energy source but generates more energy from nuclear power than from any fossil fuel or renewable. While the state lacks voluntary renewable targets, a coalition of 101 cities, counties, and businesses formed the Tennessee Renewable Energy & Economic Development Council to promote renewable energy, economic development, and energy efficiency. The Tennessee Valley Authority, which owns 90% of energy generating facilities in the state, according to the EIA, plans to have reduced CO2 emissions from 2005 levels by 60% by the end of 2020.

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#14. Minnesota (tie)

- Household GHG intensity: 58 CO2 emitted per m2 (23.4% above national average)
- Household building energy intensity: 198 kilowatt hours per m2 (#5 highest among states, 34.7% above national average)
- Household thermal demand: 8,218 degree days (#4 highest, 36.2% above national average)

Minnesota plans to reduce its GHG emissions in increments by at least 80% of 2005 levels by 2050. The state, however, already missed its first benchmark in 2015, reducing emissions by only 5% at that time instead of 15%, according to the state Department of Commerce’s Pollution Control Agency. Minnesota’s GHG emissions decreased 12% from 2005 to 2016, but residential emissions increased by 11% in that time, according to the state’s 2019 emissions report.

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#14. Indiana (tie)

- Household GHG intensity: 58 CO2 emitted per m2 (23.4% above national average)
- Household building energy intensity: 178 kilowatt hours per m2 (#18 highest among states, 21.1% above national average)
- Household thermal demand: 6,405 degree days (#21 highest, 6.2% above national average)

A 2019 study from researchers at Purdue University found the average residential energy consumption in Indiana could fall by up to 3% by the mid-century and up to 3.5% by the late century as the climate warms. Residences in the state use more energy for heating than cooling, and the warmer climate will cause a decline in energy demand for home heating, according to the study. Indiana, which generated 51% of its net electricity with coal, ranked eighth in the nation for CO2 emissions and 11 for energy use per capita.

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#14. Alabama (tie)

- Household GHG intensity: 58 CO2 emitted per m2 (23.4% above national average)
- Household building energy intensity: 132 kilowatt hours per m2 (#7 lowest among states, 10.2% below national average)
- Household thermal demand: 4,438 degree days (#6 lowest, 26.4% below national average)

Alabama serves as the fifth-largest biomass-generated electricity producer in the nation, the fifth-largest nuclear power generator, and the second-largest hydropower producer east of the Rocky Mountains. The amount of CO2 emissions in the state has fallen 24% between 2005 and 2017.

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#11. Illinois (tie)

- Household GHG intensity: 59 CO2 emitted per m2 (25.5% above national average)
- Household building energy intensity: 190 kilowatt hours per m2 (#11 highest among states, 29.3% above national average)
- Household thermal demand: 6,821 degree days (#15 highest, 13.1% above national average)

Illinois has the second-largest coal reserves in the nation, according to the EIA. The state’s GHG emissions, however, fell 17% from 2005 to 2017. According to the EIA, energy consumers in Illinois use natural gas and hydroelectric power more than any other source, and the state generated 12% of its power from nuclear in 2019. Gov. J.B. Pritzker, however, has been advocating for the Clean Energy Jobs Act, which calls for the state to shift toward 100% renewable energy by 2050.

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#11. Wyoming (tie)

- Household GHG intensity: 59 CO2 emitted per m2 (25.5% above national average)
- Household building energy intensity: 178 kilowatt hours per m2 (#18 highest among states, 21.1% above national average)
- Household thermal demand: 7,537 degree days (#6 highest, 24.9% above national average)

Wyoming is the second-most energy intensive state in the nation and ranks second in energy use per capita, both a result of having a low population and high energy supply. The state also ranks eighth in the nation for crude oil production as of 2018, is among the top marketed natural gas producers, and has been a top coal producer since 1986, according to the EIA. State senators proposed a bill earlier this year that, if adopted, would have penalized utilities for serving ratepayers with renewable energy, but the bill lacked the legislative support needed to move forward.

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#11. Nebraska (tie)

- Household GHG intensity: 59 CO2 emitted per m2 (25.5% above national average)
- Household building energy intensity: 171 kilowatt hours per m2 (#22 highest among states, 16.3% above national average)
- Household thermal demand: 6,584 degree days (#17 highest, 9.1% above national average)

Nebraska’s CO2 emissions increased 9% from 2005 to 2017. The state, which has no voluntary renewable energy targets, ranks seventh in the nation for total energy consumption per capita, in part because of its hot summers, cold winters, and energy-intensive industrial sector. Coal fuels 55% of Nebraska’s in-state electricity, according to the EIA, followed by wind power at 20% and nuclear at 19%.

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#10. Wisconsin

- Household GHG intensity: 62 CO2 emitted per m2 (31.9% above national average)
- Household building energy intensity: 204 kilowatt hours per m2 (#3 highest among states, 38.8% above national average)
- Household thermal demand: 7,272 degree days (#7 highest, 20.5% above national average)

Wisconsin officials expect to practically meet the state’s 2030 goal of reducing emissions by 40% in 2026. Coal power accounted for 42% of Wisconsin's net electricity generation in 2019, the first time it generated less than half of the state’s power output in more than 30 years. Wisconsin offers the energy efficiency and renewable resource program Focus on Energy which among other things, offers homeowners cost incentives for insulation, heating and cooling systems, and solar panel installation.

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#7. South Dakota (tie)

- Household GHG intensity: 63 CO2 emitted per m2 (34.0% above national average)
- Household building energy intensity: 187 kilowatt hours per m2 (#14 highest among states, 27.2% above national average)
- Household thermal demand: 7,246 degree days (#8 highest, 20.1% above national average)

South Dakota ranks ninth in the nation for total energy use per capita. CO2 emissions rose 9% between 2005 and 2017. Natural gas, which accounts for 21% of the power generated in the state, and biomass are the two most consumed energy sources, but renewables dominate energy generation at 68% of the state’s output, according to the EIA.

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#7. Kentucky (tie)

- Household GHG intensity: 63 CO2 emitted per m2 (34.0% above national average)
- Household building energy intensity: 168 kilowatt hours per m2 (#23 highest among states, 14.3% above national average)
- Household thermal demand: 5,508 degree days (#19 lowest, 8.7% below national average)

Coal drives Kentucky’s power sector. Kentucky generated 73% of its net energy with coal in 2019, and with one-fifth the U.S.’s coal plants in its backyard, the state has become the fifth-largest coal-producing state in the nation. The Tennessee Valley Authority in 2020 sent shockwaves through the coal community when it closed its Paradise Fossil Plant.

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#7. Mississippi (tie)

- Household GHG intensity: 63 CO2 emitted per m2 (34.0% above national average)
- Household building energy intensity: 151 kilowatt hours per m2 (#16 lowest among states, 2.7% above national average)
- Household thermal demand: 4,505 degree days (#7 lowest, 25.3% below national average)

While Mississippi has no voluntary renewable energy targets, utilities that operate in the state plan to reduce their emissions by 50–70% by 2030 or 2035. Mississippi generated 74% of its electricity from natural gas in 2019, when nine out of the 10 largest power plants used it as their primary fuel. According to the EIA, 11 out of 100 households use propane as their primary source of heat, double the national rate.

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#6. Iowa

- Household GHG intensity: 64 CO2 emitted per m2 (36.2% above national average)
- Household building energy intensity: 195 kilowatt hours per m2 (#7 highest among states, 32.7% above national average)
- Household thermal demand: 7,100 degree days (#11 highest, 17.7% above national average)

One in eight Iowa households used hydrocarbon gas liquids to heat their homes in 2018, according to the EIA. The state, however, has also become a leader in wind energy development, which accounts for more than 40% of its electricity generation.

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#5. Kansas

- Household GHG intensity: 65 CO2 emitted per m2 (38.3% above national average)
- Household building energy intensity: 166 kilowatt hours per m2 (#24 lowest among states, 12.9% above national average)
- Household thermal demand: 5,931 degree days (#23 lowest, 1.7% below national average)

Fossil fuels dominate Kansa’s energy consumption, with natural gas intake greater than its production. The state adopted its Renewable Energy Goal in 2009, which requires the state to receive 20% of its power from renewables by 2020, but that only applies to peak demand. Ten years later in 2019, wind power accounted for 41% of Kansas's electricity output. The boom in wind energy facility development helped the state to annually reduce emissions for 10 years.

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#4. Oklahoma

- Household GHG intensity: 67 CO2 emitted per m2 (42.6% above national average)
- Household building energy intensity: 168 kilowatt hours per m2 (#23 highest among states, 14.3% above national average)
- Household thermal demand: 5,265 degree days (#16 lowest, 12.7% below national average)

Oklahoma produces 9% of the national marketed natural gas production, 5% of the national crude oil production, and 3% of the national petroleum supply. The state’s CO2 emissions fell 13% between 2005 and 2017. Wind energy development has boomed in the state in recent years, propelling it to second in the nation for wind power production and third for wind’s portion of overall state electricity generation. According to the EIA, Oklahoma, which ranked 10 in the nation for energy use per capita, generated 35 percent of its net electricity from wind power.

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#3. Missouri

- Household GHG intensity: 69 CO2 emitted per m2 (46.8% above national average)
- Household building energy intensity: 165 kilowatt hours per m2 (#23 lowest among states, 12.2% above national average)
- Household thermal demand: 6,023 degree days (#25 highest, 0.2% below national average)

Household energy and household GHG intensity correlate for some states, but not Missouri. While the state exhibited a medium-level of household energy intensity, household emissions were very high. The state obtained 73% of its electricity from coal power in 2019. Some utilities, however, plan to develop wind energy facilities in the state, and one, Ameren in St. Louis, plans to retire all of its coal plants by 2040.

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#2. West Virginia

- Household GHG intensity: 70 CO2 emitted per m2 (48.9% above national average)
- Household building energy intensity: 184 kilowatt hours per m2 (#15 highest among states, 25.2% above national average)
- Household thermal demand: 5,956 degree days (#24 lowest, 1.3% below national average)

West Virginia was the first state in the nation to abandon it’s Renewable Portfolio Standard in 2015, withdrawing the policy it adopted in 2009. Coal power provided 92% of the state’s electricity in 2018, followed by renewables at 5.3% and natural gas at 2.1%. According to the EIA, West Virginia ranks eighth in the U.S. for energy consumption per capita. Despite ranking second in household GHG emission intensity, Goldstein said residents can still take measures to reduce their carbon footprints. “Homeowners can use proven technologies to make meaningful reductions to their carbon footprints,” he said. “Weatherizing and installing heat pumps can go a long way.”

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#1. North Dakota

- Household GHG intensity: 74 CO2 emitted per m2 (57.4% above national average)
- Household building energy intensity: 191 kilowatt hours per m2 (#10 highest among states, 29.9% above national average)
- Household thermal demand: 8,805 degree days (#1 highest, 45.9% above national average)

North Dakota, which ranks third in the nation for total energy use per capita, relies heavily on fossil fuels. According to the EIA, the state, which houses 2% of natural gas reserves in the U.S., is among the top 10 producers of coal and received 63% of its electricity from it in 2019. The EIA also reported that wind power generated 27% of the state’s energy in 2019. The state experienced a 7% increase in CO2 emissions between 2005 and 2017.

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