Source: DOE Public Database
As we celebrate the 4th of July holiday, Americans everywhere will take a moment to remember the men and women who have made freedom possible.
But let's not forget: Freedom also carries a responsibility. It's simply not enough to remember those who have come before us and offer them thanks. We must also remember those who will follow us and offer them hope.
From an environmental perspective, few things in the future threaten our freedom more than climate change. Leaving a world void of hope and bankrupt of resources would be as oppressive as any tyranny.
That's why it it's so encouraging to see President Obama finally take a firm stand on such a critically-important issue.
Clearly, this is a watershed moment in our nation's history. Today, climate change is a real and growing threat to America and the rest of the world. It's indisputable. Climate change threatens our economy, our future progress, our health and safety, and even our way of life. Every day, the Earth suffers a little more from human neglect. We can't wish this problem away, and pointing fingers won't solve it, either.
To his credit, President Obama understands that. We commend him for offering a bold, decisive plan to combat climate change and to mitigate the impacts of carbon pollution. But this isn't just the president's legacy at stake -- it's also ours. Let's not be remembered as the generation of Americans that could have made a difference, but didn't.
America's solar energy industry is uniquely poised to help. Today, more than 30 utility-scale, clean energy solar projects are under construction, putting thousands of electricians, steelworkers and laborers to work and helping to reduce carbon emissions from power plants. These facilities, along with rooftop solar on homes, businesses and schools, will generate electricity for generations to come.
There is now more than 8,500 megawatts (MW) of cumulative solar electric capacity installed in the U.S. -- enough to power more than 1.3 million American homes. What's more, in the first quarter of 2013, more than 48 percent all new electricity added to the grid was solar. In addition, innovative solar heating and cooling systems are offering American consumers cost-efficient, effective options for meeting their energy needs.
Today, solar employs nearly 120,000 Americans at more than 5,600 companies, most of which are small businesses spread across the United States, making solar one of the fastest growing industries in America. Part of this amazing growth is attributed to the fact that the cost of a solar system has dropped by nearly 40 percent over the past two years, making solar more affordable than ever.
This is our moment in time. America's solar energy industry stands ready to do our part to help fight climate change and usher in a new era of clean energy in America and around the world. Despite what some critics say, this isn't a choice between clean energy and a robust economy. We can have both, and solar is showing how to make that possible.