The renewable energy landscape looks better than ever
State commitments are picking up speed
Growing up, the only time I ever thought about the sun was when I was applying copious amounts of sunblock before soccer practice (the redhead’s curse). And I only thought about the wind as a nuisance, when it would tug my hair loose from my ponytail on the walk to school. But lately, a growing, nationwide movement is causing a lot of us to rethink the role of the sun and the wind in our society. Instead of letting those renewable resources go to waste, states are stepping up and putting them to use to power our lives.
With wind and solar combined, there is massive energy potential in the U.S. ready to be unlocked. In fact, according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the United States could produce more than 100 times as much solar electricity and more than 10 times as much electricity from wind as the nation currently consumes each year.
We’ve known about the nearly limitless potential of renewable energy for years. The trick has always been tapping into it. Since their inventions, solar and wind capacity increased at a steady, but relatively slow rate. But in the last decade, we’ve seen that progress skyrocket. From 2008 to 2017, America saw a 5-fold increase in wind generation and a 39-fold increase in solar. Strong policies and statewide commitments have helped spur this growth, and now, states are poised to take it to the next level.
In 2015, Hawaii became the first state in the U.S. to set a 100 percent renewable energy goal, committing to generate all their electricity with clean sources by 2045. The next 100 percent commitment came last year, when California—after years of hard work by Environment California and allies— passed SB 100.
Just last week, another state joined the A-list of climate leaders. With Gov. Lujan Grisham’s signature, New Mexico enshrined the Energy Transition Act (ETA) into law, which commits the state’s utilities to 80 percent renewable electricity by 2040, and 100 percent carbon-free electricity by 2045. Like in California, the efforts of Environment New Mexico were instrumental to getting the ETA over the finish line. State Sen. Jacob Candelaria even referred Environment New Mexico’s director, Sanders Moore, as “the general of the bill.”
But these three state commitments are only the beginning. Data released by the U.S. Energy Information Administration project that solar and wind energy will be the fastest growing source of electricity generation in the country for at least the next two years. In those two years, we’re expected to increase solar capacity alone by 32 percent. These numbers will likely only get more impressive as more states adopt bold goals to strengthen renewables across the U.S.
Of course, it’s not just states who are part of the movement. From Budweiser’s recent announcement about powering its brewing process with wind energy, to Washington D.C.’s commitment to 100 percent clean, renewable energy by 2032., to the entire University of California system committing to go 100 percent over the next decade, the renewable energy movement is here, and it’s picking up speed in cities, towns, businesses, colleges and universities. Because communities across the country are ready to not only talk the talk about wanting a cleaner, healthier future, they’re ready to walk the walk.
Our only question now is, who’s next? Right now, there are 100 percent renewable energy bills in several states, from Illinois and Florida to Pennsylvania and Washington State. Which state will emerge as the next clean energy leader remains to be seen — but we do know that New Mexico certainly won’t be last.
This is all coming not a moment too soon. Moving to 100 percent clean energy is necessary, not only for the health of our communities, but to keep our planet livable for future generations. With the transition already underway, it makes no sense to continue relying on energy sources such as coal or oil that pollute our environment and threaten our health. Renewable resources like wind and solar are here, they’re abundant, and they’re widely supported.
The sun isn’t doing anyone any good by adding more freckles to my arms, or beating down on newly built rooftops that don’t have solar panels. The wind is wasted if it just blows the hair loose from my ponytail, or whistles through fields without wind turbines. It’s time for more states to follow the lead of Hawaii, California, Washington, D.C., and now New Mexico, and put these clean, renewable resources to work.