An environmental advocacy group recently took on the ambitious task of envisioning a 100 percent renewable energy future for the country – and it is one that certainly benefits electricity customers.
With global climate change becoming more and more severe, the world's power suppliers need to make drastic cuts in carbon emissions. Numerous solutions have emerged including photovoltaic solar systems, which can reliably produce energy without having to emit harmful air pollution into the environment. For a long time, this has been considered a nice plus, but not an essential. Unfortunately, the time for treating climate change as a minor problem has long passed.
New U.N. report
The United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recently released a report entitled, "Climate Change 2014: Mitigation of Climate Change," and its conclusions were not very encouraging. It noted that emissions grew faster between 2000 and 2010 than they have in any of the past three decades.
In order to limit the rising temperature of the Earth, global greenhouse gas emissions will need to be reduced by 40 to 70 percent compared to 2010 by 2050, and nearly zero by the end of the century. This is certainly an ambitious goal, but it's one that is absolutely necessary to ensuring the future of the planet as we know it. Fortunately, there are available solutions, but it also means changing the way the game has been played for the majority of history.
"Climate policies in line with the two degrees Celsius goal need to aim for substantial emission reductions," said Ottmar Edenhofer, one of the co-chairs of the report. "There is a clear message from science: To avoid dangerous interference with the climate system, we need to move away from business as usual."
Using renewable energy
Fossil fuels are among the largest polluters in the entire world. In the U.S. alone, power plants fueled by resources like oil, coal and natural gas produce 40 percent of domestic greenhouse gas emissions. If this "business as usual" scenario continues to play out, energy consumption will grow between 1.6 and 3 percent annually.
In order to account for the increase in energy demand sustainably, the United States and the rest of the world will need to switch to zero-emissions electricity generation. Solar is fast becoming one of the more popular choices for renewable energy because of its ability to generate savings for energy customers.
If a homeowner were to purchase a rooftop installation, the system would be able to generate power independent of the utility that likely uses fossil fuels to produce power. This eliminates the need for the homeowner to purchase power from the utility, and in the process, do away with the utility bill itself. These savings can then go toward paying off the system price. With the cost of solar continuing to drop, this payback period is becoming shorter and shorter.
Going 100 percent
Recently, the Solutions Project published a series of scenarios for each of the 50 states envisioning a 100 percent renewable energy future, according to Fast Coexist. The environmental advocacy group is made up of a number of well-respected scientists, business leaders and celebrities including Mark Ruffalo.
The scenarios were devised in order to show both the economic benefits and environmental ones of switching to an entirely renewable future. For instance, in New York, residential and commercial rooftop installations could account for 8 percent of the projected energy mix. These are projections for 2050, the same time that the IPCC noted that carbon emissions needed to be reduced by 40 to 70 percent.
This would lead to massive savings for the average energy customer. For instance, wind, water and solar would cost just 6.6 cents per kilowatt hour, while the cost of fossil fuels would be around 14 cents per kilowatt hour. These results are encouraging, as they indicate that it's not only possible to make the conversion to renewables, it's fiscally advantageous as well.