For more than a decade, the 25x’25 Alliance and its partners across the nation have worked strongly to promote at all levels – national, regional, state and local – the public policies and mechanisms that can bring about a future in which renewable energy will play a critical role in meeting the power demands of a growing world population and the environmental challenges left by more than a century of reliance on fossil fuels.
The progress toward that goal in the United States has been steady and is on track to be achieved over the next 10 years, boosted in no small part by recent congressional actions on tax policies and the administration’s role in securing an ambitious international agreement to curb climate change that will spark a burst in the growth of a number of renewable energy technologies, such as wind and solar.
But as 25x’25 leaders have observed since 2004, the biggest challenge in the march to a clean energy future is complacency. There is the danger that the drastic drop in oil prices ongoing since mid-2014 can lull a consuming public into a false sense of energy security. Mileage driven on U.S. highways is at its highest in eight years and auto sales have risen to record levels.
While these indicators can rightfully be seen as signs of a strengthening U.S. economy, the sad truth is that oil prices are among the most volatile commodities on the planet. Over the years, we have seen oil and gasoline prices jump quickly and significantly, more often than not over what could otherwise be seen as mild provocations on the world political stage. Oil is a globally priced commodity and it must be remembered that its price is vulnerable to a growing range of external influences that have often led to damaging impacts on U.S. economic interests.
That’s why it is important that policy makers here stay focused and push ahead in their pursuit of a wide-ranging energy strategy. Of course, there will be naysayers who will attempt to diminish the role of renewable energy in an effort to maintain a business-as-usual scenario. So, it will be critical for advocates to demand elected officials and regulators at all levels to sustain the momentum that has pushed renewable energy to this breakthrough point.
2015 marked a tipping point in the evolution of energy production in the United States and the world. The recent historical highlights occurring in Washington, in Paris, and in many U.S. state capitals underscore the broad acceptance of renewable energy – boosted by big technological advances and falling costs ‑ in not only meeting vast environmental challenges, but also in generating big economic benefits through job creation and consumer cost savings.
As highlighted by President Obama’s reaffirmation of renewable energy in his State of the Union address this week, the stage has been set for an explosion of innovation that will not only improve existing ways of producing clean energy, but also generate a new phase of technology development that will result in a more reliable, moderately – and stably – priced, homegrown energy system.
Still, the renewable energy sector is now enjoying a degree of public and policy maker support that could readily take solar, wind, biomass, biofuels, hydropower and geothermal energy into the mainstream. It’s now up to us in the clean energy community to insure the nation does not get complacent and, instead, makes the most of the prospects now at hand to achieve a new energy future.