From changes in perception to new technologies, five ways the renewable industry continues to be the best bet for the future.
Renewable energy consistently gets a bad rap from cynics as a pipe dream and a waste of resources. Yet, for all their talk, detractors of renewable energy often conveniently forget that the renewable industry directly employs nearly 1 million Americans and counting. Additionally, while the green energy sector continues to add solid American jobs at a brisk clip, the mature fossil fuel industry is hemorrhaging jobs. The coal industry has cut employment in half over the past two decades despite increasing domestic output by a third. Recent political assaults notwithstanding, the green times are still booming. Below are 5 more reasons to be optimistic about the future of renewables in the nation, and in the world.
The Green Energy of the Mainstream
One of the most important developments in the past decades has simply been the mainstreaming of sustainable ideals. This cannot be stated enough. Thanks to better education, better information, and the efforts of strong leadership, dedicated activists, and everyday citizens, America is a nation of green believers. As one of our local Texas leaders recently in the national spotlight can testify, no longer can our nation’s politicians deny global warming and get away with it. Americans, and much of the world, can finally cross off step one of our efforts to kick our addiction to fossil fuels – denial.
Renewable Energy Rapidly Reaching Price Parity
While the challenge to the broader adoption of renewable energy used to be a lack of awareness, now it is a lack of capital – or so the most common excuse goes. In reality, many areas of the United States and the world are already experiencing competitive price parity when it comes to renewable energy sources. One could consider it a coming-of-age era for renewable energy with wind and solar energy having reached grid parity in certain areas solar energy. Of course other major renewables, such as fuel cell technology, biofuels, and yes, even algae have a ways to go. Nonetheless, there will be absolutely no way to prove or disprove the efficacy of any of these “future” fuels if we don’t put in the time, money, and effort to develop them – which brings me to my third point.
Green Energy is Good Business
Renewables continue to drive economic growth despite a slow economy. Green energy is good business. While the traditional energy sector still employs the most people overall, reports indicate that the overall “green economy” may now employ as many as 2.7 million Americans, which is rapidly closing in on the number of people employed by the fossil fuels sector. However, there is one key difference; while the green economy continues to add good domestic jobs, the traditional carbon sector (with the exception of natural gas) has seen employment numbers shrink despite record profits. As it turns out, green is great for the economy.
Just ask any one of the 15,000 people employed in the green sector in Austin, TX. The city, one of the fastest growing in the nation and voted one of the best places to live, has seen a vibrant green economy emerge as a direct result of progressive policies and a cache of outdoorsy, innovative talent that come from far and wide. Cities like Austin attract talent and capital, thereby promoting economic growth. They show dedication to sustainability and livability, ie: the city’s pledge to obtain 35 percent of its energy from renewable sources, careful management of parks and land, and, of course, providing opportunities for jobs in the renewable energy sector. The irony is that much of the growth in the renewable energy sector has been in cities just like Austin located in decidedly Red states.
Solar Leasing and Financing
Despite its relatively slow adoption compared to other states, Texas has one of the most competitive solar markets in the country. The current price of a solar installation in Central Texas is 50% of what it was 2 years ago and 30% lower than the national average. In addition to lower installation costs, in order to achieve the grid parity mentioned above, you no longer have to pay for that power production up front to reap its benefits over the next 25 plus years.
A solar lease works much like a car lease in that there is little up front cost and the payments are slightly less than what you would otherwise pay on a monthly basis for a purchase, or grid power in this case. The lease company pays to maintain the system and replaces any failed components during the 20 year lease term.
Another option is to finance your renewable energy system through special solar loan programs or through more conventional home refinance methods. Depending on the interest rate of your home mortgage, it may be a great time to consider a low interest refinance which will allow pulling equity out of your home to finance a solar installation. In many cases, this will not only result in a reduction of your energy bills, but also a reduction in your mortgage payment due to the currently favorable interest rates.
Renewable Energy Sources Are Changing Developing Nations
Most developing nations have suffered greatly from the extraction of fossil fuels. While undoubtedly profitable, a vast majority have seen very little improvement in their day to day lives, with wealth being accumulated by a select elite. In fact, the increased regional instabilities, civil strife, pollution, and the deterioration of the environment have resulted in a decline in overall living standards for many. The world population is set to hit 10 billion by the end of the century with developing nations contributing 97 percent of the population growth.
Where will the increased energy demand come from? Most developing nations have abundant natural renewable resources such as wind, water, and sun. If properly developed, these sources could bring green power to billions. Solar panels are already bringing clean electricity to many millions around the world. In 2010, investment in renewables in developing countries overtook the amount spent in developed countries – $72 billion compared to $70 billion. Without a doubt, the future of renewable energy will be determined by the choices of developing nations as they rush headlong into modernity.
Every age has its share of naysayers. When Copernicus asserted the earth revolved around the sun or when Henry Ford set out to make the automobile affordable to the working man, a legion of detractors stood between them and progress. Today, the naysayers of renewable energy will have you believe that there is an infinite availability of cheap fossil fuels, and that climate change may not even exist. Ultimately, what we are faced with today is choice between present gain, or a sustainable, green future struggling to be born.
“The truth is…those fighting for present gain almost always win out…We are in a pitched battle between the present array of resources and attitudes and the future struggling to be born” – Bill Clinton, TIME October 1, 2012
Make your power right where it’s used. Build Native.
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