It’s Official: Clean Energy Is Cheaper

clean energy unsplash

In case you missed this little gem, tucked into the environment section of the New York Times last week, we wanted to share it again.  The big news? 

“The cost of providing electricity from wind and solar power plants has plummeted over the last five years, so much so that in some markets renewable generation is now cheaper than coal or natural gas.”

This is a big deal.   For those who doubted the rise of solar and wind energy, the complaints have always been two fold: 1) It’s too expensive and 2) it’s not reliable (or, to use the tech jargon, issues with rapid deployability and intermittency).  #1 is officially gone as a roadblock.   The article goes on to point out that analysts expect this market competitiveness to continue even beyond the coming expiration of the various subsidies currently supporting the renewable energy industry – and there’s movement afoot to extend this support ongoing.   At this point, it's simply about smoothing out supply & demand – how to ensure that the lights turn on even when the sun isn’t shining.  We’ll get there. 

The race is on for solutions.  Major utilities are investing in energy storage solutions – Southern California Edison just signed papers to built the largest battery on earth.  On the flip side, distributed energy and energy efficiency are growing as fast as the price of solar is dropping.  As Billy Parish, founder of Mosaic, the crowd-funded distributed energy start-up, describes it on the Bioneers radio show below, “The transition to a world powered by 100% clean energy is inevitable.   The question is: How fast can we get there and who’s going to control the clean energy infrastructure we’re building?”

Meanwhile, as the industry matures, the value of a thriving renewables sector continues to prove itself.  At the 2014 Bioneers Conference, Bernadette del Chiaro, Executive Director of the California Solar Energy Industry Association, outlined what this impact looks like in California:

  • More solar installed in the past 18 months than in the past 18 years combined
  • More people employed in the California solar industry than in traditional fossil fuel dependent utilities. 
  • On track to hit 2 million solar roofs by 2020. 

World leaders are gathering in Lima, Peru this week to hammer out the important pre-work necessary to come to some sort of agreement on a global climate treaty next December in Paris.  They’ll be helped by news like this, the growing cost competitiveness of clean energy.  Regardless of what comes of negotiations at a global level, progress continues to be made on the ground and it’s certainly cause for hope.  As Ms. del Chiaro reminded the audience at Bioneers this year, this will take all of us:

“Through our political activism, through our ingenuity, our entrepreneurialism and our creativity  and by joining with other like-minded regions and countries, we will be both the source of the optimism and the engine of change.

Renewable energy and solar isn't the entire piece of the pie, but it is a critical component. If we continue to grow, we will get to 100% renewable energy. We will get to it in time that the climate requires, and we'll do it by small groups of people like this working together one house at a time, one community at a time, one state at a time.”

For more content like this, explore more of the talks given at our California Climate Leadership Summit or search for "energy" on our YouTube page.

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