Last week a number of new indicators showed that President-Elect Donald Trump is now less likely to gut the renewables industries as evidence shows that they are thriving and even providing jobs for coal workers. Even Republican leaders are supporting solar with new legislation. In other news, Tesla is now powering an island with solar and batteries, showing the potential of microgrids to operate without fossil fuel.
Recently Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy spoke at the National Press Club, where she discussed how progress made in wind and solar power have helped the US achieve significant carbon reductions earlier than anticipated. She stated: “The inevitability of our clean energy future is bigger than any one person or nation. It must be guided by a simple, profound truth: we don’t have to choose economy or environment. We can, and must, choose both.” She added that the US has cut carbon emissions 24 percent below 2005 levels and the reduction plan is 7 years ahead of its 2030 goals.
Similarly, a group of researchers and professors at Northwestern University discussed whether or not the US, under Trump, could pull out the Paris Climate Accord. Experts, like Michael Wasielewski, executive director of the Institute for Sustainability and Energy at the university observed that “Renewable energy and its related industries are already making a significant positive impact on the U.S. economy. It would be short-sighted to place the U.S. at a disadvantage in this area relative to our global competitors.”
Indeed, fully 14 percent of the US’s energy supply came from renewable sources at the end of 2015 and that number is growing. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s recent Renewable Energy Data Book found that solar power grew from 1.3 percent of the US energy supply and 1.9 percent of the US energy supply in one year, a growth rate of 35.8 percent. Similarly, wind generation increased 5.1 percent over the last year.
Even former coal workers are finding work in solar power. Numerous efforts are being made to train from coal workers for the solar industry. Given that natural gas prices are low and expected to stay low, it’s less likely that there will be a strong demand for coal so it’s more important than ever to make sure that coal workers can find other employment.
Also last week, Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) helped persuade Exelon Generation and its subsidiary ComEd of Illinois to alter their proposed bill to support more rooftop solar power in the state. The deal also will help the utility keep its nuclear facilities open longer.
Last week Tesla announced that the island of Ta’u in American Samoa is now getting its energy from SolarCity power panels and Tesla PowerPack energy storage systems. The system will provide an important showcase of the capabilities of the system.Tweet