Our recent Yardley Voice article talked about how the public overwhelmingly favors increased adoption of solar energy, and how that is translating into grassroots movements across the country. Here is a little more information about that growing trend.
Developing clean energy sources used to be a push from the top down. Local and federal policies were the sole catalysts for growth. As more capacity was installed, the technology rapidly progressed and prices fell. Now we are at a point where the momentum and drive has shifted more towards the grassroots. People in communities across the U.S. are investing in renewable energy and becoming more involved in programs and activities to increase installed capacity. It is fast becoming more than a change in momentum. It is becoming a revolution.
Beneficial social change is accelerated when people become champions. Americans want a better life for themselves and their children, and we tend to get behind causes the we feel deliver on that desire. No surprise, then, that a Pew Research survey of over 1,500 adults conducted in 2016 found that renewable energy is viewed positively by a vast majority. Looking at this selective summary of results, the responses indicate that most individuals have at least some concern about the environment. They act in a way to help or do no harm. Unlike other issues, people of all political viewpoints agree.
In fact, there is a uniform, positive outlook for increasing the use of solar and wind energy. A few highlights on opinions derived from this survey:
- 75% have some level of concern about the environment. As many as 83% say they make conscious decisions and take actions with the environment in mind at least some of the time, or more.
- 89% favor increasing the use of solar energy. 83% favor increasing the use of wind energy.
- Over half say scientists, the public, and utility leaders should have a major role in policies addressing climate and the environment. Interestingly, less than half (44%) think elected officials should have a role.
For Pennsylvanians, the good news is the utilities and the regional transmission coordinator, PJM Interconnection (PJM), are steadily more proactive. Beginning in May, 2011, the PJM Renewable Integration Study (PRIS) was commissioned. Among the many goals, the authors sought to find economical and technical paths to reach levels of 20% and 30% renewable energy within the 13 state region. Mixtures of onshore wind, offshore wind, and low and high amounts of solar energy were analyzed. For PJM, it was important to define existing operating limits for current and slightly upgraded grids in the region.
Some highlights from this study are encouraging:
- Every scenario examined resulted in lower system-wide production costs. This comes from the balance of lower fuel costs for curtailed power plants with the marginally increased costs for more frequently cycling the gas and coal plants. That is needed to address the variability of wind and solar power.
- Lower emissions of monitored pollutants and greenhouse gases are predicted.
- One possible 30% renewable energy scenario could allow a 66% reduction in the current usage of coal fired power to maintain grid stability.
So, without a great expense for each of the 13 states, PJM concludes the path to as much as 30% solar and wind is not only possible in the near future, it can be done without sacrificing reliability. So what should be next?
The recent clean energy successes give many hope for a path to a 100% renewable energy future in the not so distant future. Across the country leaders in cities like San Diego, CA, and smaller towns like Abita Springs, LA, have announced plans to fully transition their communities to renewable energy sources. Major metropolitan areas like Chicago are committing to a quick transition for all government and public facilities. In Pennsylvania, in addition to the Sierra Club “Ready for 100” programs, the Delaware River Keeper has sponsored research on ways to power the state with 100% renewables by 2050. These program aims are more than economic. As the revolution to greater clean energy levels continues, experts predict significant improvement in respiratory issues, neurological damages, and even cancer.
Want to know more? Click on the button to the right to download our more detailed mini-white paper on this topic.