Renewable energy booming even with low fossil fuel prices

By Bret Fanshaw
Solar Program Coordinator

With barriers to solar and wind energy disappearing around the world, renewable energy is taking off.  Right here in the United States, solar energy quadrupled from 2010 to 2015. This past year, the United States reached capacity to power 19 million homes with wind-generated electricity, as well as 4.6 million with solar. Millions of Americans are taking part in the renewable energy “boom” not only because it is the smart environmental choice, but in a lot of cases, it has become the smart economic choice.

Why has solar done so well?  For sure, it’s because of advances in technology and declining costs.  But, none of these advances would have occurred without thoughtful government programs and far-sighted private sector investments driven by people who understand the value of a pollution-free energy source that has no fuel costs.

One recent example of a successful government program is the extension and renewal of wind and solar tax credits by the US Congress at the end of 2015, which will help grow the renewable energy sector to even greater heights over the next five to six years. [1]  

Alongside the clean energy boom, however, the price of fossil fuels has also significantly declined. You’re probably tempted to view this as a danger to the renewable industry.

In fact, it appears that even though fossil fuel prices remain low, renewable sources of energy are still flourishing and even gaining momentum.

The resiliency of renewables is due to a few things. Because fossil fuel investment is risky, world leaders have used surpluses generated from low fossil fuel prices to increase investments in renewable energy technology and infrastructure. [2]

In addition, 196 countries came together to sign the Paris Climate Agreement, a monumental pact to limit the most severe impacts of climate warming. In response, fossil fuel stocks plummeted and renewable energy stocks increased dramatically. This sent a clear message worldwide: wind and solar power can and will be the cornerstone of our energy future.

Given what we’ve seen this past year, the solar and renewable movement is strong enough to withstand pressures. More cities, states, and countries are committing to generating power from renewable sources. In the United States, a new home or business switches to solar every three minutes.

The progress made so far has been impressive, but the progress we’ve made should give us the confidence we can do much more. Local, state and national leaders should deepen and expand their support for renewable energy. When they do, America will continue our upward trajectory toward a 100 percent renewable future and we can finally say goodbye to fossil fuels.

 

[1] Congress Gives Surprise Gift to Unleash Wind and Solar Power; Rob Sargent, Environment America for the Huffington Post; December 28, 2015 http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rob-sargent/congress-gives-surprise-g_b_88...

[2] Wind, solar power soaring in spite of bargain prices for fossil fuels; Joby Warrick, Washington Post; January 1, 2016 https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/wind-solar-power-...