Thoughts from Encore’s Founder and CEO, Chad Farrell, following the historic People’s March for Climate in Washington D.C. and around the globe.
“The road we have long been traveling is deceptively easy, a smooth superhighway on which we progress with great speed, but at its end lies disaster. The other fork of the road — the one less traveled by — offers our last, our only chance to reach a destination that assures the preservation of the earth.” – Rachel Carson
An estimated 200,000 people attended the Climate March in Washington, D.C. on Saturday, April 29, 2017. 370 Sister Marches took place around the world on Saturday, as well. Photo courtesy of NY Magazine (Astrid Riecken/Getty Images).
The events of the past few months have left environmentalists, renewable energy proponents and climate activists in a seemingly endless state of fear, frustration, and even outrage, all of which is very understandable when you consider the fact that the earth’s climate is warming at an alarming rate and seems to be spinning out of control.
It seems that nearly every day over the past 100 brings additional cause for concern that the United States is falling behind in the global competition around what will be the economic opportunity of the 21st century: the race to mitigate the effects of climate change.
Let’s face it — unless you are a fossil fuel industry executive, the news has gone from bad to worse. But there are also signs of hope, wisdom, and just plain common sense out there that speak to the continued advancement of the clean energy economy and the necessary work we all have to do to thwart the worst effects of global climate change.
Here are a few reasons why I believe we can turn this ship around:
The economics of solar and wind continue to improve
Many analysts predict renewable energy, especially solar, will become the dominant source of electricity in the coming decades, surpassing coal and maybe even natural gas by 2030. Solar already competes with coal and gas on price in many parts of the US and around the world. Wind energy already out-competes coal and natural gas in many places.
As the technology continues to mature, prices will continue to fall, leading to accelerated rates of installation and further price reductions. In fact, many experts believe that the tipping point is very nearly upon us.
These trends have led to tremendous amounts of capital investment, escalating renewable generation capacity, and continually increasing job numbers, something no politician is likely to attempt to roll back.
Big business is on board
Bloomberg News reports that a full 60% of the Fortune 100 companies have renewable electricity procurement policies in place. Much of this activity stems from purely economic interests, with corporations viewing long term purchase power agreements for solar and wind energy as hedges against volatile natural gas and coal prices, which have historically determined wholesale electric rates.
In fact, much of the corporate interest in renewable energy has the Trump Administration walking back its campaign pledge to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement.
Renewable energy is exceedingly popular and carbon is increasingly being viewed as a risk
One rare area of bipartisan agreement is the desire to expand both solar and wind energy resources. Data from the Pew Research Center indicates that large majorities of both Clinton supporters (91%) and Trump supporters (84%) said that they favored increasing solar PV generation. Additional Pew Research Center data found that 65% of Americans polled supported additional development of renewable resources for electrical generation, versus just 27% who supported expanded production from fossil fuel based resources.
Further, business and political leaders, regardless of party affiliation, are increasingly viewing carbon dioxide emissions as a risk and suggesting new ways to both advance the clean energy economy as well as put a price on carbon.
Who needs the federal government when cities and states can lead the way?
Add to all of this the fact that US mitigation efforts against climate change aren’t likely to come from Washington anyway and are more likely instead to come from cities and other “subnational” actors.
Consider, for example, the strong statement made by Michael Bloomberg shortly after the election, when he remarked that Washington will not have the last word on the fate of the Paris Climate Agreement in the U.S. — mayors will, together with business leaders and citizens. “In fact, if the Trump administration does withdraw from the Paris accord, I will recommend that the 128 U.S. mayors who are part of the Global Covenant of Mayors seek to join in its place.”
What Bloomberg is talking about is already happening here in Vermont and elsewhere, with our largest city, Burlington, becoming the first U.S. city to procure 100% of its electrical demand from renewable resources. Numerous other cities around the country are either there already or following suit in coming years: Las Vegas; San Diego; San Francisco; San Jose; Grand Rapids, MI; Rochester, MN; and Georgetown, TX to name a few.
At the end of the day, while there will continue to be causes for concern along the way, sound economics, common sense, and technology are on our side. Additionally, the groundswell of public support for clean energy is palpable. We predict, and as turnout for the Peoples’ Climate Marches in DC and around the world seems to suggest, this support will only increase as climate change deniers continue their attempts to annihilate legacy environmental protections.
So for all of us who cherish this big, beautiful planet and want to prevent it from turning into a flooded, superstorm-ravaged wasteland, we have a call to action: embrace the challenge of the less traveled road and stand up to shortsighted energy and environmental policies – and, in doing so, stand up for the new economy, stand up for Mother Nature.
Chad Farrell is Founder and CEO of Encore Renewable Energy, a Burlington, Vermont-based leading integrated clean energy development company focused on commercial-scale solar PV systems and 21st century solutions for the redevelopment of underutilized property.