Around the world, renewable energy is making headlines: last May, clean energy supplied almost all of Germany’s power demand for one day, while Portugal ran entirely on renewable energy for 107 hours straight. We asked some of our authors how these accomplishments will affect the way other countries think about renewable energy, and what this means for the US. Check out what they had to say below.
Renewables are already being taken seriously by the marketplace, but ultimately it’s a matter of economics: fossil fuels don’t pay their true cost—including the costs associated with emissions of carbon dioxide and other pollutants—and so it’s not a level playing field. A carbon tax (like the Yeson732.org carbon tax effort I’m part of that will be on the ballot in Washington State in November) would help internalize those external costs and give a boost to renewables and conservation. It’s still going to be a long time before the USA operates entirely on renewables for a day or more—it’s a big country and we’ve got a lot of coal and natural-gas power plants—but the sooner we start moving in that direction the better!
-Yoram Bauman, author The Cartoon Introduction to Climate Change
It is great to see these milestones achieved, but I think even more important climate policy and achievements are now starting to be seen on the horizon. There is a new wave of policymaking focused on 80 percent or even complete decarbonization of energy by 2050, travelling far beyond the 2030 date in most official goals and plans, including the U.S. Clean Power Plan. While the 2050 works are in their early stages, and most are closer to visioning exercises than actionable plans, this is the next phase of planning and operations for no-carbon energy. Thirty-five years is a very long time to plan forward, but it is within the life span of many large energy technologies and nearly all of the buildings that are in existence today. Every year we move towards 2050 we lock in more of the system that will be in place, or already retired, by that year, so it’s really the right time to start working on this. Almost makes you want to start singing that old Fleetwood Mac song, the theme of Bill Clinton’s first presidential campaign. Google it, you twenty-somethings.
-Peter Fox-Penner, author Smart Power Anniversary Edition
Many press reports said Portugal and Germany were getting all their energy from renewables during these short periods of abundant wind and sunlight. But it’s important to remember that we’re really talking only about electricity, which currently represents about 20 percent of global final energy usage. The other 80 percent of energy usage occurs mostly in transportation, agriculture, industrial processes, and in heating buildings, and currently requires liquid, gaseous, and solid hydrocarbon fuels. We have a big challenge ahead of us in electrifying those areas of energy usage. Continue reading Richard's full post here.
-Richard Heinberg, co-author Our Renewable Future