Even if the U.S. abandons the Paris climate agreement, even if coal mining gets subsidized up the wahoo by the Trump Administration, can the growth of renewable energy in America be stopped?
No. Here’s why:
In five years, as solar installations skyrocketed, prices fell by 2/3 while jobs in the solar industry more than doubled.
The exuberant green energy market has been powering along for enough years now that this trend is becoming too clear to be denied: renewable energy adds jobs even as costs come down. That’s why we just made this new video, called States Save Planet!
A detailed report recently released by the Union of Concerned Scientists has copious graphs and charts to prove the point. As the report summary says,
“Wind farms in 41 states provide enough electricity to meet the needs of more than 20 million American households. In 2016 alone, the nation added enough solar electric panels to meet the needs of two million households. Investments in energy efficiency over the last quarter century have precluded the need for the equivalent of more than 300 additional large power plants.”
A WONKY NAME FOR A GREAT IDEA
The study and many other articles and reports we reviewed, come back again and again to a key element, a hidden spark, charging up the boom in renewable energy: energy policies, state by state.
And there’s a name for that: Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS). Really, could there be a worse name?
We have trouble remembering what RPS means, or why it is called “portfolio” (which is itself a pretty musty word). So, here it is: a Renewable Portfolio Standard is a state law mandating that a certain amount of renewable energy be included in the state’s energy mix. At least 29 states have RPS’s. Most of these have programs to subsidize the installation of renewables (no, don’t get worked up about unfairness – fossil fuels have been and continue to be subsidized at much higher rates).
The National Conference of State Legislatures has made a nice interactive map of the RPS’s in every state. This is a picture of it - to interact with it, go to this page.
Inside Climate News, which closely tracks developments in the states, reels off the names of, and provides links to, the many states taking action to expand renewables:
“At least eight states—California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New York, Pennsylvania and Vermont may dramatically boost existing clean power policies. Maryland’s legislature overrode a veto to have a quarter of the state's energy come from renewables by 2020...Others that ramped up renewable targets: Illinois, Michigan, Rhode Island, Oregon and Washington, D.C.”
These efforts are taking place even in conservative states, despite “the Republican-led backlash against green energy under way in Washington”. Virginia, for example, is expanding its community solar ventures, while South Carolina and Florida are instituting tax breaks for solar users.
WE LOVE KANSAS
But our favorite conservative state going ever-greener is Kansas, which has had the number one increase in renewable energy generation over the last four years, in the form of wind turbines.
Why do we like Kansas?
1. Kansas is the home of the lobbying outfit Americans for Prosperity and its patron, Koch Industries, an implacable foe of clean energy. The growth of renewables comes despite strenuous efforts by these favorite sons to destroy it.
2. The song “Dust In the Wind” by the rock and roll band named Kansas.
3. One of THIS PLANET’s first and funniest videos was about Kansas, in which we ripped imagery from a famous movie that was set in Kansas illustrated how renewables can become a dream come true: