Donald Trump just had the worst week of the most disastrous start to a presidency since William Henry Harrison came down with a fever and expired 30 days, 12 hours, and 30 minutes after taking the oath of office. After a week of revelations, resignations, and investigations, President Trump must be desperate for something positive. So here’s a little bit of good news ― not for the president, but for the rest of us.
While most people’s eyes were glued to multiple Trump train wrecks, American clean energy development reached a couple of milestones. The winds of change really are blowing in this country, and they’re turning turbines.
Early on February 12, the entire electric grid from Montana to the Texas Panhandle was momentarily powered by 52 percent wind energy, breaking a record set less than a year ago. The significance isn’t that so much power came from wind, but that the grid had no problem handling it. Coincidentally, on the same day that happened, David Saggau, CEO of Great River Energy, which provides energy to electric co-ops in Minnesota, made this point about wind energy at an energy policy forum in Minnesota:
In the past, we tended to think of our coal resources as baseload and every other resource being supplemental to that. I would suggest to you that wind is quickly becoming the new baseload; and to be viable going forward, all other sources must be flexible enough to be supplemental to the wind.
As the technical challenges of integrating renewables are solved, the economic benefits become irrefutable. Perhaps that’s why 20 U.S. governors (including eight Republicans) sent a letter last week to President Trump asking him to support renewable energy, which is conspicuously absent from the so-called “America First” energy plan at whitehouse.gov. That bipartisan support for wind and solar isn’t just because two out of three Americans think we should prioritize developing clean, renewable energy sources over fossil fuels. It’s because renewables are already contributing mightily to local economies ― both through jobs and energy production.
The growing momentum of wind and solar is also inspiring more city governments to set their sights on 100 percent clean energy. Again, in just the past week both Moab, Utah, and Pueblo, Colorado, joined the 23 other cities that have committed to getting all of their power from 100 percent clean, renewable energy. Pueblo, Moab, and other communities are charting this course away from dirty fuels because they want a future with healthier families, more economic security, and greater prosperity. In the case of Pueblo, the lesson that fossil fuels don’t offer any of those things has been hard learned. Three recently commissioned gas power plants have led to some of the highest electricity rates in the country for a community that can ill afford them.
OK, so all of that progress in renewables happened during just a single week, but the non-alternative fact is that we’re adding more wind, more solar, and more energy storage all the time. During the last month of 2016, a whopping 97 percent of the new electricity installed across the entire country came from wind and solar. Soon entire states will be generating the majority of their energy from renewable sources for minutes, hours, and days at a time. More people will be put to work, air and water pollution will decrease dramatically, and politicians from all parties will be arguing over who jumped on the clean energy bandwagon first.
This is a revolution that is not going to happen. It’s already happening. And not even the worst president in history can stop it.