Major Environmental Groups Aim for 100 Percent Renewable Energy; Nature Study Shows Solar Alone is on Track Toward 50 Percent

Here we explore how models have consistently underestimated PV deployment and identify the reasons for underlying bias in models… We propose that with coordinated advances in multiple components of the energy system, PV could supply 30–50% of electricity in competitive markets.Nature

It’s the call for the rapid conversion of energy systems around the country to 100% renewable power — a call for running the United States (and the world) on sun, wind and water. What Medicare for All is to the healthcare debate, or Fight for $15 is to the battle against inequality, 100% Renewable is to the struggle for the planet’s future. — Bill McKibben

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Let’s be very clear. The big first step in saving cities like Houston and regions like South Asia from this global warming nightmare we’re creating is to replace the chief cause of the problem with something else. And when the central driver of global warming is fossil fuel burning, then you can’t solve that problem by continuing to dig up fossil carbon and combust it. Full stop.

(The world is heating up, primarily due to fossil fuel burning. Rapidly replacing those fuels with renewables is crucial going forward. Image source: NASA.)

That’s why visionaries like Bill McKibben and agencies like 350.org and the Sierra Club are now engaged in a campaign to promote 100 percent renewable energy policies at every level of government. Under such policies, an increasing number of these governments and institutions commit to using only renewable energy. And they do so within a prescribed timeframe.

It’s a policy aimed at solving the climate crisis while saving the stakeholders themselves. At not continuing along a path toward worse disasters than Harvey and ultimately lethal climates like those of the Permian. At not putting stakeholder cities, states and industries at ever increasing risk. Ultimately, it’s aimed at combating the central cause of global warming — fossil fuels — by leveraging the superior economics of wind and solar to crowd them out. A goal that’s enabled by the fundamental economic superiority of renewables. And the timing couldn’t be better.

For renewable energy, in the form of wind and solar, is now less expensive in most applications than gas and coal. And the price is continuing to drop. This means that the economic argument for fossil fuels has fewer and fewer legs to stand on. Arguments attacking renewables increasingly rely on either baseless and false inflations of environmental damage, or on a downplaying of renewable energy’s economic strength and potential future capacity — attempting to divide and conquer environmentalists by creating inaccurate impressions or to tamp down enthusiasm among renewable energy supporters. Such anti-factual messaging, however, reveals the present economic, political and social vulnerabilities of fossil fuel interests as they are forced more and more to rely on outright deception.

Now, as with climate change, the fossil fuel special interests are facing off against a rising tide of scientific evidence. This time, the science isn’t just revealing the causes of environmental harm in the form of fossil fuel burning — it is showing why renewable energy’s growth rate will be faster and more transformative than expected.

(Environmental organizations like Greenpeace have provided the most optimistic and accurate assessments of solar growth rates — flummoxing most energy industry experts. Image source: Nature.)

A new study in Nature this week found that solar energy alone would represent up to 50 percent of global electricity generation capacity by 2050 on the basis of its economic strength alone. Solar benefits from a simplicity of design, use of common materials, easy scalability, a proven track record of increasing efficiency over time, and the ability to easily loop in technological design breakthroughs. These advantages have allowed solar to reduce its price by 22 percent for each doubling of installed capacity.

Wind benefits from similar economies of scale. And a new study out from the National Renewable Energy Lab found that the price of wind would fall by another 50 percent through 2030. Estimates that are up from 30 percent even earlier this year. A pretty amazing ability considering the fact that wind is already the lowest cost energy source in many applications.

This economic strength really gives environmental advocacy groups an effective tool for achieving goals going forward. Now, a zero emitting technology that produces orders of magnitude less harm than present energy systems is within reach. Now cities, states and nations can change the world for the better. And now they can do it on the cheap. But not only does this thrust jibe with traditional environmental goals — it appeals to the 72 percent of republicans who support renewable energy, regardless of their views on climate change. In this way, the 100 percent renewable campaign is one that appeals to all Americans and can therefore gain ground in pretty much every state and region.

RELATED STATEMENTS AND INFORMATION:

Links:

The Underestimated Potential of Solar Energy to Mitigate Climate Change

Wind Power Costs Could Drop 50 Percent. Solar PV Could Provide up to 50 Percent Global Power. Damn.

Innovation Can Reduce Wind Energy Costs by Another 50 Percent Through 2030

Bill McKibben Kicks Off Keep it 100 Campaign

 

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