A New Meaning to Renewable
Updated: Jun 9, 2021
By the end of 2019, there were 282 gigawatts of renewable energy generation capacity on the grid in the U.S.
Even though this seems like a huge amount, these renewable energy resources accounted for only 17% of overall electricity production, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
There’s a fundamental need to build new infrastructure.
When it comes to electricity, U.S. consumption of electricity is equivalent to about 308 billion gallons of gasoline each year, according to a formula from the Sierra Club.
Taking that into consideration, one of the biggest marks in battling the effects of climate change will be accomplished through building new and varied sources of renewable energy to power the grid.
The idea is that by building upon sources of clean energy, this furthers the development of new infrastructure and in turn the reduction of carbon emissions.
Recent OECD estimates indicate that around $6.3 trillion of infrastructure investment is needed each year globally until 2030 to meet development goals. This will need to increase to $6.9 trillion each year to make this investment compatible with the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement.
Building a net-zero America will require immediate, large-scale mobilization of money, policy and societal commitment from individuals and companies alike, including at least $2.5 trillion in additional capital investment into energy supply, industry, buildings, vehicles and more over the next decade, but major decisions in the energy transition must start now.
According to the World Bank, countries now have a once-in-a-generation chance to set themselves on a sustainable, inclusive and resilient development path.
Corporations are doing their part to move the needle forward, but one estimate states that the U.S. needs to invest an average annual investment of $320 billion in new renewable energy generation through 2050 in order to reach a 100% clean energy economy, based on findings from the Economic Risks of Climate Change in the United States National Report.
Several major companies have already pledged to zero out their carbon footprints in the next decade or so. Both Google and Amazon Web Services have created their own guidelines to ensure procurement of new sources and their 100% commitment of clean energy.
They’ve also been purchasing clean energy at a larger scale, which has allowed them to become a primary leader in U.S. renewable energy growth. Even so, hitting the bigger decarbonization targets needed to limit the impacts of climate change will require more substantial and quicker reductions in carbon emissions from the power-sector.
According to World Resources Institute, the U.S. has made progress towards a low-carbon economy in recent years. Low-carbon technologies have become more efficient and more affordable compared to fossil fuels, while clean energy investment and deployment grew to new levels, with 2021 estimated to be the strongest year yet.
Led by wind and solar, U.S. clean energy investment climbed to a record $78.3 billion in 2019. The United States is second only to China in total clean energy investments, and despite the lingering COVID-19 pandemic, the long-term drivers for investment remain strong.
Mobilizing public and private resources is an essential part of generating the trillions of dollars needed for sustainable infrastructure, according to OECD.
In fact, $1 million spent on clean energy in the U.S. generates more than twice as many jobs as $1 million spent on fossil fuels in the short-term.
A key takeaway here: Making new purchases toward expanding renewable energy will deliver benefits not limited to decarbonization of the planet, but it can also unlock short-term gains, including new jobs, economic growth and resilience after the COVID-19 pandemic.
This is where you, the consumer, come in.
Whether you’ve thought about switching to renewable energy for your household or maybe you haven’t thought about it all, by contributing to new resources, you’re in turn building out the grid.
It is imperative to continue with momentum and to expand renewable energy infrastructure to reach net-zero goals. The costs of climate change will increase the longer we delay further action.
For people, the planet and the economy as a whole, the transition to a new climate-focused economy will be essential.
A clean energy transition will provide benefits to the U.S., but it will be a long-term journey. Committing to a personal environmental journey for yourself and your household is a step toward that carbon-free future.
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