In my last post, I talked about how clean energy – specifically energy efficiency – can save us money. There continues to be good news about energy efficiency reducing people’s bills; just check out Habitat for Humanity’s green housing success stories. The same is true of clean, renewable sources of energy like wind, solar, geothermal, tidal and small hydro. Solar power, for instance, has nearly achieved grid parity in certain areas (i.e. its retail price is the same as traditional fuels), and you can bet that as the technology improves further, costs will keep falling.
A handy map recently released identifies where the most exciting cost reductions are happening with solar energy on the road to grid parity. Unsurprisingly, California is leading the pack, and it looks like San Diego may become the first city where power produced from solar photovoltaic technology costs the same per hour as power from dirty fossil fuels. (Although, tsk tsk California, you really should do better with renewable energy project implementation in national parks and forests.)
Wind energy prices are also falling steadily, and it too may achieve national-scale grid parity as early as 2016. According to some analyses, wind is already as cost-competitive as coal in certain parts of the world (like Brazil, Mexico and Sweden), and – if one includes policy incentives for wind power but excludes incentives for all dirty, carbon-polluting fossil fuels – it may even be as cost-competitive asnatural gas.
There’s more: Analysis shows that the five U.S. states with the highest amount of installed renewable energy were the same states that experienced below averageprice hikes for retail electricity between 2005 and 2010. In other words, consumers in states with more renewable energy saw their bills go up by far less than the average American, as well as residents of states with less renewable energy. With a host of federal and state incentives, installing clean energy components is becoming cheaper too.
Globally too, renewables are becoming increasingly cost-competitive with dirty fossil fuels. The International Energy Agency affirmed this in a recent report that recognized there have already been significant price reductions in renewables. The report also projected that such cost reductions were likely to continue at a steady pace. Click here to read more about the falling prices of solar and see a stunning graph.
Guess how else clean energy will help the nation’s budget, and ultimately yours: it eliminates billions of dollars a year in health and environmental costs arising from dirty fuels. An analysis from Harvard Medical School showed that in the U.S. alone, coal costs taxpayers an estimated $500 billion a year in costs that are not adequately accounted for in the official price (known in economics as “externalities”).
And this doesn’t even take into account the overall economic benefits of job growth in the renewable energy sector. The Brookings Institute reported that the clean-tech sector experienced “explosive” job growth compared to the rest of the economy during the recession. The National Solar Jobs Census reports that at least 6,735 unique new jobs were added in the solar sector in 2010-2011, taking the total U.S. workforce in the industry to over 100,000. Solar energy, in particular, continues to be one of the fastest growing sectors in America, with a 140% third quarter growth rate and a nearly 7% annual growth rate.
All in all, renewable energy is rapidly becoming just as inexpensive as fossil fuels – even when you don’t account for the very high costs from the carbon pollution that’s changing our climate. The good news is that we’re well on our way to reaping all of renewable energy’s benefits. This is a clean energy future that I can hardly wait for. I hope our top policymakers agree with me!