California’s renewable energy revolution is a model for the rest of the United States.
The state is now getting nearly a quarter of its power from renewable sources, and in 2014 it became the first state to get more than 5 percent of its energy from the sun.
California is the world’s seventh-largest economy, and just 15 years ago was facing an energy crisis.
But just 15 years later, the state is within reach of meeting the goal of its Renewable Portfolio Standard: getting 33 percent of the state’s electricity from renewable sources by 2020.
In fact, the state is so close to reaching its goal that Gov. Jerry Brown has called for a new goal – that the state get half of its electricity from renewables by 2030.
Commercial renewable energy facilities in the state can now power more than 7 million California homes, according to the California Energy Commission. And that doesn’t include the California homes that have their own solar rooftops and other small-scale energy sources.
So why are other states – and the federal government – so far behind on the renewable energy revolution?
It’s not because renewable technologies aren’t ready for large scale deployment; it’s not even that renewables are too costly
Those are just the talking points of the fossil-fuel companies and the politicians they own.
Even a few Republicans agree that we need to do something about climate change: Their sales pitch is that the so-called “free market” will solve everything and government shouldn’t do anything.
But that idea is fundamentally flawed because there’s no such thing as a “free market,” and the fossil-fuel industry and regional power companies profit from flaws in the market.
Flaws like the $5.3 trillion that the fossil-fuel industry gets from governments around the world.
Or the fact that they don’t have to pay the full cost of oil spills across our land and in our water.
And the biggest problems: that they don’t pay anything for the 40 billion tons of carbon that they dump into the atmosphere every year, or the cost of our military protecting shipping lanes around the world that bring us oil and ship our coal to China.
And what do they do with all that money that they’re saving by not paying for destroying our communities and our planet?
They put lobbyists into the halls of Congress and throw millions of dollars into advertisements on every channel; they create organizations that promote distrust of science; and they buy underwriting statements or place their shill guests on NPR and PBS to sow misinformation over the public airwaves.
And that messaging has been incredibly successful: Many Americans still doubt that we can transition to a completely renewable energy portfolio.
But the reality is that we can do it – easily – by 2050.
Stanford researchers released a study just last week that shows how all 50 states can go 100 percent renewable by 2050.
The study shows how each state can adopt its own mix of renewable energy technologies in order to go 100 percent renewable by the middle of the century.
But it also shows how many permanent jobs would be created in each state; how much energy costs would change; and how much would be saved in health outcomes. And it even shows how much land each state would need to use for building out renewable energy sources.
Renewable energy is working in California, and this study from Stanford shows how each state can make its own progress toward a renewable energy future.
It’s time to abandon the dirty fossil-fuels that powered the industrial revolution of the 19th century and time to power a bright new industrial revolution based on clean and sustainable wind, water and solar power.
We need to incentivize companies to build out renewable energy capacity; we need to reduce barriers to homeowners who want to install rooftop solar panels; we need to create real incentives for communities and towns to invest in local renewable energy generation.
But we also need to cut the fossil-fuel industry off from its $5.3 trillion in global subsidies, and we need to make them pay the full cost of the damage they continue to do to our communities, like the Gulf of Mexico and the coast of California.
Most importantly, we need to put a price on carbon so that the price of burning fossil fuels is in line with the real costs to our society and our planet.
Not only would a carbon tax make renewables more price-competitive, but it would also provide the seed money for states to undertake their own renewable energy revolutions.
It’s time to go renewable now!