Renewable energy: An idea whose time has come
By Flannery Winchester
Each month, Citizens’ Climate Lobby hosts an international call featuring a guest speaker to educate listeners on topics related to climate change and our Carbon Fee and Dividend proposal.
The guest speaker for February 2017 was Sandy Reisky, the chairman and Chief Strategy Officer for Apex Clean Energy, which develops and manages dozens of wind and solar power projects through the U.S. He has also launched a nonprofit called Generation180. He joined our February call to discuss speeding up the transition to renewable energy.
“We want to support a cultural shift in energy behavior and awareness and clean energy adoption,” Reisky said. By cultural shift, he means things like seat belt laws, prompting seat belt usage to become the norm, or even the popular concept of local foods. “I think energy is ready to be able to do the same thing, where we have the opportunity with solar panels to go local with energy in a way that’s revolutionary,” he said.
Ultimately Reisky’s goal with Generation 180 is to change consumer behavior in order to quickly decarbonize at scale and at low cost, and to do so through original content like this video.
Reisky pointed to three “megatrends” that suggest the time is ripe for more energy awareness and widespread clean energy adoption:
- Consumer choice. “We have big companies marketing solar, and electric cars, and LED lights—all of these things that are coming at consumers, and they’re going to be making choices about energy for the first time,” Reisky pointed out. Just by presenting those choices, the entire marketplace now understands that clean energy is an option. “This is really about personal behavior,” he said. He hopes increased awareness and adoption of clean energy will lead people out of the doom and gloom narrative around climate change, and into a narrative that says, “My choices really do matter. I can be part of the solution. I’m learning about new products that are going to save me money. I’m hopeful and more confident.”
- Social momentum. “We have big social momentum of the Paris Agreement and moving away from fossil fuels,” Reisky points out. You can see this momentum in the widespread divestment campaigns, environmental protests—even the strong presence of a climate message at the recent Women’s March on Washington. People are ready for more environmentally friendly energy options.
- Energy transition. Technology like electric cars, solar panels and LED lights are more accessible and more affordable than ever, and the world is already taking advantage of it. A full transition to clean energy offers the opportunity for huge emissions reductions. “If we were to achieve 100% market share, there’s an opportunity there to lower carbon emissions at about 21%,” Reisky said. So if we can change consumer behavior enough, he pointed out, it could really move the needle.
So how long will it take for these megatrends to lead us to a full energy transition? In a “business as usual” scenario, Reisky said, it might take 50 years to shift to clean energy meeting all our needs. “But if we get more energy efficiency, while at the same time accelerating clean energy adoption, then we have the ability to potentially move forward to the point that 100 percent clean energy adoption could be much sooner—perhaps 25 years versus 50,” Reisky said. In fact, 70 percent of new energy capacity in the U.S. comes from clean sources, and that trend is similar across the globe. Jobs in solar and wind are “orders of magnitude larger than what’s in the fossil fuel sector,” Reisky added.
Reisky quoted Victor Hugo, who said, “You can resist an invading army, but you cannot resist an idea whose time has come.” And as these trends and statistics show, the time has come for widespread clean energy adoption—and carbon fee and dividend will support the shift.