Renewable energy and its real potential for this country

Solar Day - celebrate the opportunities of renewable energy

Contrary to what the conservative media continues to focus on, renewable energy is alive and well and holding strong in this country. And its potential to replace fossil fuel-based energy sources looks pretty darn good.

In July, the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) released a report examining and applying methods for estimating the current and future economic potential of domestic renewable energy. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), which recently crunched the numbers, NREL’s analysis shows that renewable energy sources have the potential to supply anywhere from “35 percent to as much as 10 times the nation’s current power needs.”

For those who don’t grasp the figures stated above (and this writer must admit to being momentarily befuddled by them), that means renewables have the real potential to meet anywhere from one-third to up to 10 times our country’s energy needs. And the NREL found that solar and wind power have the greatest economic potential.

NREL Economic-Potential-Report-Table-1

   Chart courtesy of the Union of Concerned Scientists

Another great piece of news – this also not being covered much by the general media – was a joint report issued on August 31st by the International Energy Agency (IEA) and Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA). The report found that renewable energy sources “can produce electricity at close to or even below the cost of new fossil fuel-based power stations.” Over the past five years, the report stated, there has been a “significant drop in the price of solar and wind generation costs, especially for solar photovoltaic (PV) installations, as a result of sustained technological progress.”

That joint report examined generation costs at more than 180 plants – from large nuclear and fossil-fuel facilities to wind farms to residential-sized solar PV installations – in 22 countries, including Brazil, China and South Africa. It detailed how utility-scale solar PV and especially onshore wind power are comparable and often lower in countries featuring plentiful resources and appropriate market and regulatory frameworks.

Solar Day - celebrate the opportunities of renewable energy

According to the UCS’s report, every state has the potential to deploy renewable technology to meet some or all of its energy needs. In fact, it found that 29 states had economic potential for renewables that exceeded their total state electricity generation. And under even NREL’s most conservative scenario, 22 states showed economic potential for new renewables development equal to at least 25 percent of their total electric generation.

To quote the report, “NREL’s findings validate the strong role renewables can play in helping states affordably achieve their carbon emission reduction requirements under the Clean Power Plan.”

So despite what the conservative media continues to focus its stories on, renewable energy has a very large potential to get this country out of its dependence on fossil fuels and to do so at affordable costs over the long haul. It’s about time to be forward thinking in our perspective – to focus on real and viable solutions rather than continue to harp on what didn’t work. By focusing on probably solutions, the media could be offering the reading public something to inspire and uplift – spirits as well as the economy. Now wouldn’t THAT be something.

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