Four Key Victories for Clean Energy in North America
My thing is to be positive. I try to focus on solutions and priorities and not get too mired in dwelling on the negative effects of climate change, or the climate change fight, which always seem to receive enough exposure without my help.
But there is one positive story that must be told even if it is based on the negative, sometimes sinister forces who had to be defeated in a sometimes vicious war by positive, determined people.
Google and others large progressive companies invented Corporate Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs). This is a direct buy-sell deal for electricity between a wind or solar farm and Google, Apple, or other forward looking firms. In some cases these companies had to win in court just to be permitted to make these direct purchases. But they went to the trouble to do so, because status quo utilities tried to unfairly block them from insisting that the huge amounts of power they buy must be green.
When small businesses and homeowners started putting solar panels on rooftops all across America, some utilities became insecure about its customers becoming their own power generators. They decided to try to discourage the ‘distributed’ (as opposed to centralized) rooftop/ground mounted solar market, by imposing huge fees to connect to the grid they still controlled. They made some good arguments and some not so good arguments about the fees. Homeowners took them to court 30 or 40 times. Utilities lost in court almost every time. Must have been too greedy.
Proliferation of Distributed Generation
One of the things that is happening now is that the big fossil fuel companies are buying car charging companies, and I’m guessing they will use their gazillions to start buying electric utilities soon. I’m going to stay positive, take this at face value and conclude that they want to shift into a better, cleaner business, but I fear the worst. What if they use their leverage to shut down clean power and electric cars? Guess what? It can’t happen. it’s too late. There are too many well-proven off-grid solar installations on rooftops. In 2017 about 95% of net new volume of US generation came from renewables, with about a fifth of it being distributed; and NREL says distributed solar could meet as much as 40% of America’s energy needs eventually. We know how to do it now.
There are too many billions invested in electric cars and shareholders expect a return on that investment. We don’t actually need utilities or gas cars, which means, if energy companies and automakers want to keep us as customers, they’ll have to treat us right, no matter who their owners are.
The Power of Democracy & the Entrepreneurial Spirit
How did we get all those panels on our roofs and all those windmills making electricity? It wasn’t easy, especially with the Koch brothers hiring thousands of lobbyists to create fake science during the past few decades. But we persevered. We elected enough inspired people to get some incentives and financing happening, so that we could afford those solar panels, that geothermal heating and cooling, and the first few hundred thousand electric cars. Also we encouraged the market to invent these things. We voted with our hearts and we voted with our wallets, and now everywhere you look, clean energy is cheaper than fossil energy. The people who play dirty got away with it when the technology was expensive and unproven, but now it’s the opposite. Hurray for all of us!