It seems that every day we see another headline about the incredible growth of renewable energy and its numerous positive effects on the economy. While there is an ongoing discussion about the threat of climate change, there is a growing consensus that renewable energy sources, like wind and solar, are not only good for the planet but good for the economy as well. Increasingly, that consensus is spreading across the aisle, bringing opposite ends of the political spectrum together.
This trend can be seen in action with The Governor’s Wind & Solar Energy Coalition, which is comprised of 20 governors, 8 Republicans, and 12 Democrats. Virginia’s own, Governor Terry McAuliffe, is a member. They published a letter to the new administration on February 13, 2017, touting the benefits of wind and solar energy. The governors’ note their own experiences with renewables and how the Trump Administration can help on the national scale.
“Today’s wind and solar resources offer consumers nearly unlimited electric energy with no fuel costs, no national security impacts, and a number of environmental benefits. The boons of renewable energy can be virtually endless…”
There is no doubt that renewables have a positive impact on the economy. Wind and solar alone already provide more jobs than coal, oil and natural-gas extraction combined. According to figures gathered by the government, the solar industry now represents 43 percent of all jobs in the American electric power sector. Last week, the Solar Foundation released a report that showed 1 in 50 new jobs coming from the solar industry.
While renewable technologies grow more economically competitive with conventional sources, they are requiring less in the way of government subsidies. However, there are ways in which the federal government can further unlock the resources that renewable technologies have made available.
First, the Federal government can help to streamline the regulatory process, which is slow to react to the meteoric progress of renewable technology. Outdated regulation in many cases serves as a roadblock to renewable development. A great example is offshore wind development. The Department of Energy’s 2015 Wind Vision Report predicted that our country’s offshore wind resources could support the installation of 22 GW of new wind by 2030 and 86 GW by 2050. However, the U.S. lags behind both Europe and Asia with offshore development. Because of an absence of clear guidance and regulation, there has yet to any wind development in Federal waters. This resource has been left untapped.
Perhaps the largest way in which this new administration can facilitate progress in the renewable industry is through infrastructure spending. As with much all of our country’s infrastructure, there is an ever increasing need for grid modernization. The administration has floated the idea of one trillion dollars in infrastructure spending. If a portion of that could go to updating the grid to modern needs, substantially more renewables could be added.
The renewable industry is creating jobs, adding cost security and increasing America’s energy independence. It is no wonder that, with these benefits, politicians from both sides of the aisle are eager to voice support. And the new administration can help, not through government handouts but by removing barriers. Renewables just need a little more room to continue their exponential growth.