National Renewable Energy Laboratory Photo

Our Campaigns

Go Solar

Goal: Ask 50 cities to go big on solar and defend our local and state progress.
More Americans are going solar every day. By 2019, our country had enough solar energy capacity installed to power the equivalent of more than 12 million homes.

 

Yet we’re still not even close to reaching our solar potential. Every year, enough sunlight shines on America to provide 100 times more power than we need. We’re capturing only a tiny percentage of that resource. Harnessing more of the sun’s energy would mean cleaner air and a more stable climate, less strain on natural resources, more resilient communities and an energy source we can depend on to be virtually pollution-free for as long as we can imagine.

So what’s slowing us down? What, if anything, can stop us?

In some places, we’re thinking too small, failing to enact policies that can help even more Americans go solar. In other places, we’re thinking too narrowly, putting the short-term interests of old industries with outdated business models ahead of our health, environment and wellbeing.

  • <h4>Shining Cities</h4><h5>Our Shining Cities campaign is urging 50 cities to think bigger, act smarter and tap the sun for more of their power. We are also bringing over 200 mayors together from all 50 states through our Mayors for Solar Energy project.</h5><em>aznaturalist cc BY-SA 3.0</em>
  • <h4>Stand Up For Solar</h4><h5>We’re urging officials in 20 states to reject attempts to make it harder for more Americans to go solar.</h5><em>Solar Trade Association CC BY-SA 2.0</em>
Shining Cities

Cities are primary drivers of the growth in solar in America. From 2013 to 2018, most major American cities more than doubled their installed solar capacity, according to our annual Shining Cities report. One third of the biggest cities in the U.S. more than quadrupled their solar capacity in that time.

Los Angeles / zhu difeng via Shutterstock.com

The cities that have been most successful at embracing solar power share a set of priorities: they’ve set high goals for solar capacity, they’ve ensured that homeowners receive a fair price for the solar energy they supply to the grid, they have made installing panels hassle-free and they provide attractive financing options.

That’s why Environment America's Shining Cities project set a goal of convincing 50 American cities to think bigger, plan smarter, and tap the sun for more power. For example, our state and local advocates, members, and activists are:

  • backing a strong solar energy goal in Las Cruces and other cities in New Mexico, building on our successful 2016 effort to commit Albuquerque to getting 25 percent of the city government’s electricity from solar power, and
  • urging Tempe to increase the city’s renewable energy goal, a 20 percent by 2025 commitment we helped persuade the city to set in 2014. Tempe is already ahead of schedule, so we’re encouraging the city to set a 100 percent renewable energy goal that promotes more local solar power.

Of course every mayor wants her city to be a leader, especially when it comes to an innovation with the kind of broad transpartisan support that solar enjoys. So we’re encouraging mayors to run a race to the top on solar by comparing the growth of solar city by city in our annual Shining Cities report, showcasing the results through the news media and on social media, and providing the resources cities need to capture more energy from the sun through our Mayors for Solar Energy project.

Even as we make the case for solar on environmental grounds, we’re bringing together a broad coalition that can offer a variety of reasons for local officials to act — from “Green Tea Party” activists in Georgia who want “energy freedom” to solar installers in Arizona who want green jobs, from low-income communities in Massachusetts that want cleaner air to business owners in Colorado who want to power their breweries and cafes with solar.

Since the 1970s our network of state affiliates has been calling for and winning pro-solar policies and progressing all the way to California’s Million Solar Roofs Initiative of 2006 and beyond. Environment America and our national network have chalked up solar policy victories in 12 states, plus Atlanta, San Diego, Albuquerque and more than a dozen other cities. Past successes make it easier for cities to aim higher now, and for more cities and states to jump on the bandwagon.

Stand up for solar

Every great technological advance disrupts one or more existing industries, and solar is no exception.

A few utilities, including Green Mountain Power in Vermont, have embraced solar, retooling their business models around a grid with thousands of homes generating power as well as consuming it. But others have been less forward-thinking. Threatened by the growth of an energy source that requires less capital investment but smarter distribution, many electric utilities and their trade associations are pushing to roll back the policies that have enabled and encouraged solar’s growth. Fossil fuel interests, including the Koch brothers, have lobbied regulators and others to weaken or dismantle policies that would have made it easier for Americans to go solar.

Dan Jacobson, Environment California

We're urging officials in 20 states to resist such efforts to undermine the development of solar power.

  • In Texas, we’re urging the Public Utility Commission to reject El Paso Electric’s plans to place solar customers in a separate rate class and assess special charges and fees on their bills.
  • In Arizona, we’re opposing plans by Arizona Public Service and others to invest in fossil fuels over renewable energy, as well as charges for solar customers from Salt River Project that hamper rooftop solar growth.
  • In Florida, we’re urging regulators and local officials to rejectrollbacks in rooftop solar policy.

We’re countering misinformation with facts, including data showing how solar’s benefits to utilities and their customers outweigh the costs of pro-solar incentives. We’re also bringing together leaders from an array of fields to support solar power development.

ACT NOW

If we want cleaner air and a more stable climate, we need to harness energy from the sun. That's why we're calling on cities to go big on solar.

Sign up to get more involved in our work.