In the aftermath of the November 2010 elections, few are expecting the same level of support and generosity for renewable power that was the hallmark of the first two years of the Obama administration. The new Congress was swept into power on a wave of frustration over the economy that singled out government spending as one of the culprits.

Nor does anyone anticipate aggressive federal regulations in this area because an expanding role for the federal government was also one of the political targets.

It should come as a welcome development to clean-energy proponents then to learn the states are not sitting on their hands or their wallets waiting for federal action. The Portland, Ore.-based research firm, Clean Edge, has released its first U.S. Clean Energy Leadership Index, which shows that the states are aggressively cultivating an environment that nurtures development of these growing industries. The company is touting the index as a comprehensive and objective analysis and ranking of how all 50 states compare across the spectrum of clean energy. It examines more than 4,000 data points and uses that information to rank the states on a variety of indicators, which fall into 80 different categories. The categories are generally grouped by three subjects: technology, policy and capital. Individual indicators include such metrics as total electricity produced by clean-energy sources, hybrid vehicles on the road, and clean-energy ventures and patent activity.

Most of the results were expected. For example, California ranked first overall by a wide margin, followed by Oregon and Massachusetts. Rounding out the top 10 are Washington, Colorado, New York, Illinois, Connecticut, Minnesota, and New Jersey.

However, the index produced some surprises, Iowa leads the nation in utility-scale clean electricity generation as a percentage of total electricity. It receives more than 14 percent of its in-state generation from wind power. Also, Michigan is the No. 1 state for clean-energy patents, based largely on its emerging electric vehicle industry.