Amid climate crisis, renewable energy poised for rapid growth
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Our climate is changing, and not only is it happening faster than expected, but extreme weather events are destroying the very electricity system we rely on. We only have about 12 years to act before the damage is irrevocable. The good news is that we have the technology and solutions to decarbonize our electricity system, and the

public is overwhelmingly supportive.

Thanks to federal clean energy tax incentives and supportive state policies, renewable energy production has increased dramatically over the past decade. In particular,

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  • Renewable energy already accounts for 18 percent of our electricity production, up from 9 percent just a decade ago.
  • Solar capacity has almost tripled since 2015, from 19,000 megawatts to 48,000 megawatts in 2018.
  • Wind production has also almost tripled since 2009, from 35,000 megawatts to more than 90,000 megawatts in 2018.
  • In combination, total solar and wind potential is more than 14 million megawatts – or 14 times current electric power capacity.
  • Companies are deploying battery storage today, and prices are dropping quickly, falling by 76 percent between 2012 and 2018.
  • As a result, there are now three times as many renewable energy jobs than coal, nuclear and natural gas jobs combined. Solar installers and wind turbine service technicians are the country’s top two fastest growing occupations according to the U.S. Department of Labor. 

The bottom line is that there are clean, affordable and reliable ways for families to power their homes. Clean energy tax incentives have proven to be an effective policy tool for reducing carbon emissions and bringing new technologies like energy storage into the market, and federal policymakers should continue these incentives. At the same time, state policymakers should continue their leadership enacting policies that maintain our country’s clean energy momentum.

My company is placing the solutions to climate change and grid resiliency in the hands of families across the United States. Solar and batteries deployed on homes and businesses in communities across America are the foundation for the next generation of the energy grid. Unlike the old fossil fuel plants that powered the grid over the last 100 years, energy today is cleaner and can be generated locally right where it’s used. We will still need to have a transmission grid, and large-scale centralized renewable power, but we also need to increasingly deploy local energy resources if we are to achieve a fully decarbonized grid.

Investing in renewable energy sources is like building cell towers instead of landlines. But, some policymakers want to go backwards, not forwards, by cutting investments in clean energy, rolling back energy efficiency standards, and bailing out dirty energy industries.

If we have learned anything from America’s climate experts, we have no time to waste. Investing in renewable energy will not only produce a less expensive and more reliable electrical grid, it will dramatically reduce emissions of greenhouse gases contributing to climate change.

Investing in local clean energy and storage will also reduce the risks posed by the climate-induced wildfires that have caused so much devastation in my home state of California. Homes and critical facilities such as schools and hospitals with solar and batteries can relieve pressure on nearby transmission lines in high-risk fire areas, lowering the chances of electric sparks from overhead power lines, which can sag and increase the risk of fire. Furthermore, local solar and batteries can help communities, particularly vulnerable populations, when utilities must de-energize power lines to avoid greater harm caused by natural disasters like wildfires.

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Local solar can also play a key role in building resilience in hurricane-prone communities, such as Puerto Rico. Thankfully, a newly passed 100 percent renewable energy bill paves the way for a clean energy system that prioritizes local resilience.

Ten years ago, few Americans could have imagined a nation powered by renewable energy. But, renewable energy now provides nearly 20 percent of our electricity and we have more than enough capacity to produce all of our energy from wind and solar, according to the Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Solar power alone could produce twice as much electricity as we currently produce. We simply have to choose the policies that accelerate the transition to these cleaner, affordable energy sources.

Lynn Jurich is the co-founder and CEO of Sunrun, the nation’s largest residential solar, battery storage, and energy services company.