Uncertainty about the future of U.S. energy policy and how it impacts the mix of electric generation sources is on the horizon, as President-elect Donald Trump is expected to step back from the climate-oriented agenda of his predecessor. Thus, the transition from higher carbon sources like coal to natural gas and other sources may not happen as quickly as expected under current EPA policies.
However, when it comes to renewable energy, the genie is already out of the bottle. It’s clear that renewables will continue capturing a larger share of our energy future simply because the value proposition they deliver – including cost, risk, environmental and other benefits – is more compelling than traditional power sources and customers want those benefits.
To be clear, we don’t know how renewable energy policy will look under a Trump presidency. We also don’t know how much of the Climate Action Plan, the Clean Power Plan or the Paris Agreement (that just entered into force) will be dismantled or delayed.
But we do know several things when it comes to renewable energy:
- Corporations and institutions are purchasing hundreds of thousands of megawatt hours of renewable energy every year, and the pace of this change has grown by 50% per year over the last eight years. Google, Amazon, MIT, and Lockheed Martin are just some of the organizations that have stepped up their procurement of renewable energy. More and more companies are committed to being 100% renewable powered and many colleges and universities are targeting carbon neutrality. 2015 saw the most direct corporate and institutional renewable energy contracts signed – ever – exceeding utility purchases for the first time as well.
- Prices are dropping. Quarter over quarter, solar PV systems prices are falling. Wind power is cheaper than both natural gas and coal in many places throughout the country. In 2015, new installations of renewable energy surpassed fossil fuel installations for the first time. Renewable energy helps make resiliency more affordable and less susceptible to fuel supply or price risk at critical times when resiliency is most important.
- Renewable energy is economic for large, mid-size and even small consumers. Renewable energy contracts can provide long-term price stability, mitigate risk against future price volatility, and significantly reduce carbon emissions. Teaming up with others ensures that organizations of all sizes and types can access the benefits of renewables.
- There are jobs in renewable energy – and a lot of them. In 2016 the number of just solar power jobs has surged past the number of jobs in oil and gas extraction.
Unless the government steps in to stop prevailing market forces – which certainly runs counter to what the new administration says it stands for – the die has already been cast. Businesses and institutions will continue to push the renewable energy momentum forward.
It is not time to hit the pause button. It is time for companies and institutions to continue leading the charge for renewable energy. It is time for renewables developers and advisors to continue pushing the limits of innovation. It is also time for pioneering organizations like the Rocky Mountain Institute’s Business Renewables Center, World Resources Institute and the World Wildlife Fund as well as Second Nature to continue inspiring and enabling the move to renewable power.
We don’t know what will change in U.S. energy policy – or when.
But we do know that large businesses and institutions will continue leading the way for our country’s renewable energy future.
President & CEO