A conference in San Francisco last week named ‘pathways to 100% renewable energy’ concluded the following:
- we need to look at things differently
- predictions underestimate the growth of renewables
- technology is not a barrier
- renewables make financial sense
- local action is key
- renewables are for everyone
- we need increased public awareness and acceptance to make the a 100% switch
Republished and edited from PV solar report
Please find a short summary of the conference conclusions below:
We need to look at things differently For example, why not switch to driving electric vehicles? Is it just because we’ve internalized and accepted the reality of gas-powered cars? Or, the power industry’s current reality isn’t the only one possible. It’s bound to change as renewables make more sense economically, climate change becomes harder to deny, and consumers gain more control of power generation. Some say the industry won’t be recognizable by 2050. You can buy enough solar panels to power your car for 25 years for the money you spend on gas in a year (using a Nissan Leaf and 12,000 miles). For your house it takes between 3-8 years to recoup your initial investment and then it is free for 17-22 years. When will you get your solar panels?
Predictions underestimate the growth of renewables There are many examples of fast growth in renewables, noted that we’re already exceeding conservative scenarios. Projections from the World Bank and others have generally been a decade off or a factor of 10 lower than actual outcomes. That’s right: we’re heading down the path to 100% renewables more quickly than predicted. Some areas have already reached 100%. Case in point: Rhein-Hunsrueck, Germany. Starting with energy efficiency and moving on to generating its own power, the region of 101,000 inhabitants now produces not 100% but 104% of its energy from renewable sources. The future is here.
Technology is not a barrier That’s not to say that technology isn’t important. Solar and wind forecasting will play a role in moving us to 100% renewables, as will demand-response technologies, storage, and microgrids. We already have viable means of storing energy, and they’re only getting better. But most storage is not yet on the grid, because the grid was built when it was thought energy couldn’t be stored — another example of how we need to change our thinking. And our thinking needs to include transportation and buildings. Going all electric would reduce global energy demand by 32%, and EVs can help support the grid by storing power and sending it back to the grid when it’s needed there. Buildings, representing 25% of global energy use, can be made more energy-efficient.
Renewables make financial sense Investors are catching on. For example, they’re beginning to understand solar as an asset class and are realizing it’s a great bet: It’s a proven technology, it harnesses an unlimited source of power, and the default rate on solar projects hovers around zero. Solar provides a hedge against volatile future power costs. And new business models are emerging to finance renewables as well as to lower their costs. That includes programs supported by the SunShot Initiative that help lower the soft costs of solar, which now account for about half the cost of solar systems in the US.
Local action is key Hundreds of communities are getting into the action with policies and targets to support renewables. Some are taking up community choice energy, which allows local governments to pool residential, business, and municipal electricity loads and to purchase or generate on their behalf. It provides rate stability and savings and allows more consumer choice and local control. Other communities are taking their own paths to renewables. Lancaster, California, for example, decided to become the solar capital of the world and is making progress toward that goal. This didn’t happen from the top down — it happened because the community decided it was important. With the will to make the change in place, it wasn’t hard or costly to implement policies to support the community’s goal, such as streamlining the permitting process.
Renewables are for everyone Greensburg, Kansas provides another great example of a community-driven move to renewables. In 2007, 95% of the town was destroyed by a tornado. The community decided to rebuild in a more sustainable way, and now Greensburg is living up to its name as a showcase for how a community can go green. The people of Greensburg built on their farming ancestors’ heritage of conserving resources, reframed to fit their modern situation. Indeed, conservatism at its heart is compatible with protecting our planet. If that’s not compelling enough, most conservatives care about public safety and national security. And for most people, conservative or liberal, the strongest argument for moving to renewables is the economics.
We need increased public awareness and acceptance to make the switch To conclude, as more regions move to renewables, more people will see the value of making the switch. That increased public awareness and acceptance will help overcome the real challenges, which are social and political. Renewable energy is holding the promise of a truly distributed and democratized energy future. And clean and climate neutral, of course.
Are you in? What can you do in your community to make the switch?