Much has been written about the Supreme Court putting a temporary hold on implementing the EPA's Clean Power Plan (CPP). But arguably the bigger news -- and harbinger of things to come -- is the dominance that low-cost wind energy and other renewables have achieved in the new power marketplace, which is encouraging states and utilities to move forward with their clean power plans, despite the drama playing out in the courts.
Which states proceed with plans to bring the abundance of clean, low-cost, domestic renewable energy to their constituents and ratepayers -- and which risk being left behind -- looks to be decided at least as much or more by the market forces of customer demand and cost, as by the courts.
Indeed, the seismic shift towards clean energy being powered by the marketplace is quite extraordinary, and proof that America's clean energy economy is here to stay.
For the second straight year, wind energy in 2015 was the #1 source of newly-installed electric capacity in America, beating both solar and natural gas, according to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Bloomberg New Energy Finance and American Wind Energy Association. Together, wind and solar added 68 percent of new U.S. electric generating capacity last year, eclipsing fossil and other fuels by a more than 2 to 1 margin. Newly installed clean power was a remarkable 3,500 times greater than new coal.
The markets have spoken, clearly. Smart money is investing in wind energy, including major companies such as Amazon, Apple, Google, IKEA, Microsoft and Walmart. Blackrock, the world's largest asset manager, calls renewables a "fast river" for investing. Goldman Sachs tripled its renewables financing targets to $150 billion, saying clean energy "reached an inflection point" by topping conventional energy in new power. BNEF reports 2015 was a record year for global clean energy investing, attracting $329 billion for wind and solar power.
The most important factor driving clean energy's market momentum is price. Wind, in particular, has proven to be not only one of most effective, readily-available climate solutions - it's also the cheapest. Since 2009, real costs for wind energy in the U.S. have dropped more than 60 percent. Across the central U.S. - from Texas to Iowa - wind is now cheaper than the coal and the other polluting fuels it is replacing.
Wind power also offers customers and investors another valuable marketplace commodity - certainty. Most people think of wind as variable. But using smart data and forecasting from a worldwide fleet of wind turbines, we can now predict more than just which way the wind blows. We can predict how much clean electricity - and revenue - wind can generate, across the U.S. and much of the globe, for the next 20 years.
Today, wind power can provide a combination of low-cost and long-term certainty unmatched by any other energy source - clean or fossil fuel.
The return for consumers is just as promising - Americans will save almost $150 billion on their electric bills by 2050 in the switch to low-cost wind power, according to the Department of Energy's Wind Vision report. In Oregon, the state's House of Representatives voted to save the state's ratepayers $2.3 billion in energy costs - by approving legislation that moves Oregon to 50% renewable energy by 2040.
Other states, including California, Colorado, Iowa, Minnesota, New York and a dozen more, are moving ahead with their own clean energy plans, and a commitment to embrace wind and other new energy technologies to drive economic growth and innovation, reduce dependence on foreign energy, and lower energy costs.
Clean energy skeptics and climate change deniers can keep doubting. But the marketplace knows which way the wind is blowing - and has made its move. More and more customers are demanding, and we are supplying, low-cost clean wind power today.
Corporations and consumers alike are choosing clean, domestic renewable energy - and they're putting their money where the market is. Renewables have proven themselves as THE low-cost, competitive energy of choice. States and utilities are also making that choice - to move forward with leadership and momentum in the marketplace, or get left behind and risk the interests and ire of their ratepayers and citizens.
Whatever the courts rule on the CPP, there's no turning back or stopping this economic trend. Clean energy makes good sense for business, good sense for consumers, and good sense for the country.
Chris Brown, President of Vestas-American Wind Technology, Vestas' North American business unit.