Last month the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released their first report since 2013. The report, researched and written by 234 scientists from 66 countries, says that humans are responsible for the warming of the planet and for the highest CO2 concentrations in at least 2 million years.
While some of the effects are considered irreversible, there is also hope that serious efforts by the most developed nations can stabilize the temperature rise by cutting emissions.
Transitioning to renewable energy is one way that the United States can move the needle on reducing our carbon footprint. For the first half of 2021, renewable energy saw record growth. It now accounts for 25% of all electricity capacity. That is up 2% from the prior year, which shows that we are moving in the right direction. Just not fast enough.
Demand for electricity has outpaced the positive growth, meaning that we will be putting more, not less, greenhouse gas emissions into the environment for the next two years.
Despite a bit of whiplash from the bad news, good news, bad news scenarios, we are making progress. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued a recent report that states that the renewable energy capacity added in the first half of 2021 represents 92% of all new power added in that time frame. The renewable energy sector grew nearly 38% faster than in the same period in 2020 while the growth of electricity generated by fossil fuels slowed down significantly.
President Biden has set a target of reducing greenhouse gas pollution by more than 50% of 2005 levels by 2030. He wants to have a carbon zero power sector by 2035. Currently, only 3% of electricity generation is solar-powered, but the Department of Energy reported that by 2035, solar energy has the potential to power 40% of our electricity and to employ 1.5 million people, without raising electricity rates. However, this depends on Congress passing legislation that incentivizes renewable energy and the adoption of solar power. The legislation is being negotiated and what gets passed remains to be seen.
At this moment, solar is the cheapest and the fasted growing source of clean energy, according to Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm. But wind power is also part of the solution. In 2020, wind power developments outpaced solar installations for the first time. Wind turbines produce no carbon emissions, so wind power growth is sustainable. In addition, the price of turbines has dropped steeply, making it more cost-effective. Sixteen states in the US get more than 10% of their electricity through wind power, with some states getting up to %30.
The sustainability of wind power and the commitment to produce turbines and other wind power machinery in the United States will not only help mitigate climate change but will create jobs. Powering the economic recovery with renewable energy is a win-win.