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Renewable Energy Booming After a Decade of Progress
The sun is rising on a newer, cleaner era of American energy use.
The U.S. generates nearly eight times as much electricity from the sun and the wind than it did in 2007—enough to power more than 25 million homes—and the average American uses 10 percent less energy than he or she did 10 years ago, according to a new report by Environment America Research and Policy Center.
The report, Renewables on the Rise: A Decade of Progress Toward a Clean Energy Future, also cites a 20-fold increase in battery storage of electricity and the meteoric rise in sales of electric cars—from virtually none in 2007 to nearly 160,000 last year—as evidence that despite attempted rollbacks in Washington, a clean energy revolution is under way across the U.S.
"Despite anti-science, anti-clean energy rhetoric coming from the Trump administration and many in Congress, the science is clear—fossil fuels pollute our air, water and land, threatening our health and changing our climate even faster than scientists predicted," said Rob Sargent, energy program director for Environment America Research and Policy Center. "The good news is that the progress we've made in the last decade on renewable energy, energy savings and technologies such as battery storage and electric cars should give us the confidence that renewable energy can be America's energy choice."
The new report, authored by Environment America Research & Policy Center and Frontier Group; analyzes the growth of key technologies needed to power the nation with clean, renewable energy; including wind, solar, energy efficiency, energy storage and electric vehicles. Beyond a national assessment, the report provides state by state rankings on how effectively each state is adopting these crucial technologies.
"Key clean energy technologies are improving rapidly and getting cheaper seemingly every day," said Gideon Weissman of Frontier Group, report co-author. "These and other advances open up new opportunities to end our dependence on fossil fuels and embrace a future built on clean, renewable energy."
The report describes the factors that have contributed to the rapid growth in each category, including improved technologies and plummeting costs. Citing a survey by the U.S. Department of Energy, the report says that between 2008 to 2015, the cost of land-based wind energy fell by 41 percent; the cost of onsite and rooftop solar photovoltaics (PV) by 54 percent; the cost of utility-scale PV by 64 percent; the cost of home energy storage batteries by 73 percent; and the cost of LED light bulbs fell by 94 percent.
"Every day, we see more evidence that an economy powered by renewable energy is within our reach," said Sargent. "We need to seize the moment and lean into a future powered by clean, renewable energy."
The report comes as a growing number of U.S. cities, states, corporations and institutions consider commitments to 100 percent renewable energy. Currently, 37 cities have committed to that goal. Nearly 100 major companies, including Apple, Walmart and LEGO have as well. Hawaii is committed to 100 percent renewable electricity by 2045. California and Massachusetts are currently considering similar legislation. And, in Washington, bills to commit the nation to 100 percent renewable energy have been introduced in both houses of Congress.
"Given the environmental benefits, clean, renewable energy should be the go-to option for businesses, utilities, governments and households across the country," said Sargent. "It won't be easy. But we have no choice. Every day the urgency of our environmental challenges becomes clearer. That's why we're ready to work to move America to a future powered with clean, renewable energy."
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By Teju Adisa-Farrar & Raul Garcia
In the summer of 1969 a banner hung over a set of condemned homes in what was then the predominantly black and brown Brookland neighborhood in Washington, DC. It read, "White man's roads through black men's homes."
Earlier in the year, the District attempted to condemn the houses to make space for a proposed freeway. The plans proposed a 10-lane freeway, a behemoth of a project that would divide the nation's capital end-to-end and sever iconic Black neighborhoods like Shaw and the U Street Corridor from the rest of the city.