Turbines capture some of America’s vast wind energy potential. Credit: NREL.

An opportunity of 300 million lifetimes

New report depicts potential and pathway to a renewable energy future for U.S.

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Emma Searson
Director, 100% Renewable Campaign

Author: Emma Searson

Director, 100% Renewable Campaign

(828) 545-7300

Started on staff: 2016
B.A., magna cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa and Sigma Xi, Washington University in St. Louis

Emma oversees Environment America's national campaign for 100 percent renewable energy, working to deliver a bold vision for a future powered by clean energy one state at a time. Since joining the team at Environment America, Emma has led campaigns building and mobilizing public support for renewable energy and climate action in cities and states across the nation. She has authored reports on energy efficiency, solar energy and other renewable energy policy areas. Originally from North Carolina, Emma now lives in Boston, where she enjoys running, cooking and exploring the great outdoors in her free time.

A new report from Environment America Research & Policy Center and Frontier Group paints a picture of a nation with a remarkable opportunity. We Have the Power: Reaching America's potential for clean, renewable energy finds that America has the resources and know-how to reimagine our energy system to run on clean and renewable energy. If we take that opportunity, we’ll have cleaner air, healthier communities and a liveable future to show for it. Such a transformation would impact all of our lives for the better, and I’m excited to share some key takeaways from the research:

1. Transitioning to clean and renewable energy will protect our health, safety and environment.

Renewable energy resources are powerful tools for fighting climate change, cleaning up our air, and protecting the environment both now and for future generations. Getting off dirty fossil fuels and, instead, tapping into the power of the sun and wind will save lives; reduce air, water and climate pollution; and mean a safer and healthier world for everyone. 

2. We have plentiful renewable energy resources to meet our needs.

U.S. solar energy resources have the technical potential to meet America’s 2020 electricity demand more than 77 times over, and U.S. onshore and offshore wind resources combined could meet our 2020 demand 11 times over, according to the report. In addition, all 50 states have sufficient solar or wind potential to meet current electricity needs, and 49 have enough to continue doing so in 2050, even assuming that most energy uses such as transportation and buildings run on electricity by that time. So, we really do have the power --  and plenty of it.

Figure ES1.png

American wind and solar resources have potential to provide far more electricity than we need.

American wind and solar resources have potential to provide far more electricity than we need.

3. Renewables can power our society around the clock.

The report also reviews recent studies from a variety of academic, government and non-governmental institutions regarding the feasibility of a reliable, affordable energy system run on renewables. It highlights broad agreement that such an energy system is within reach and can supply the electricity needed to power modern society 24/7/365.

4. Four key strategies will be essential to building a renewable energy system, and we can succeed at each of them. 

We Have the Power identifies four key strategies that will be essential in transforming the nation’s energy system: building out renewable energy; modernizing the grid; reducing and managing energy use; and replacing direct uses of fossil fuels with electricity to take advantage of clean technologies. Within each area, the paper cites encouraging trends in technology, prices and adoption that suggest progress can be further accelerated in the years to come.

5. Governments at every level can help spur progress.

Finally, the report calls on policymakers at the local, state and federal levels to set ambitious goals for the transition to clean renewable energy, as well as provide the support needed to ensure clean energy can actually deliver on those goals. Specific policy recommendations range from such programs as clean energy tax incentives that lower the costs of renewable technologies to strong standards for renewables and improved energy efficiency

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Seven states have passed binding commitments to reaching 100 percent clean or renewable electricity, and dozens have enacted incremental renewable energy requirements.

Seven states have passed binding commitments to reaching 100 percent clean or renewable electricity, and dozens have enacted incremental renewable energy requirements.

I’m full of hope that Americans both want to see a cleaner, healthier, renewable energy future and are ready to do what it takes to deliver it for themselves and for generations to come. And, after reading We Have the Power, I think you will be too. Check it out on Environment America’s website and, if you share our vision for 100 percent renewable energy,  join our One Million for 100% Renewable Energy project to show your support.

Emma Searson
Director, 100% Renewable Campaign

Author: Emma Searson

Director, 100% Renewable Campaign

(828) 545-7300

Started on staff: 2016
B.A., magna cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa and Sigma Xi, Washington University in St. Louis

Emma oversees Environment America's national campaign for 100 percent renewable energy, working to deliver a bold vision for a future powered by clean energy one state at a time. Since joining the team at Environment America, Emma has led campaigns building and mobilizing public support for renewable energy and climate action in cities and states across the nation. She has authored reports on energy efficiency, solar energy and other renewable energy policy areas. Originally from North Carolina, Emma now lives in Boston, where she enjoys running, cooking and exploring the great outdoors in her free time.