Thankful Conservation: A Clean Energy Tipping Point

By Vicky Harris, Vice President Marketing on November 21, 2017
Vicky Harris
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Last year for Thanksgiving, we wrote an article with the same title as this one, Thankful Conservation, in which we explored five things we were doing right for our planet when it comes to sustainability. The areas we were thankful for included: international cooperation on conservation, the creation of reserves in our oceans, protection of endangered species, and the expansion of the world’s renewable energy capacity. We wrote, “2016 will be regarded as a milestone year full of hope-building headlines in the areas of climate change, marine sanctuaries, ecological protection, species rescue, and renewable energy.”

As we quickly approach the end of another year, we would like to reflect on some of the things for which we are grateful. This year saw the strong global uptake of renewable energy and continued progress in the area of sustainability. In the future, 2017 may very well be regarded as the year clean energy finally reached a tipping point.

Thankfully, clean energy continued to sprout everywhere in 2017.

A Tipping Point in Clean Energy

A couple of weeks ago, Quartz published an article under the thesis that we are arriving at a point where the move to clean energy is unstoppable. Interestingly, they analyzed this not only from the perspective of the developed world where clean energy is sprouting all around but how this “tipping point” will also lift the energy poor. Specifically, they wrote, “An energy revolution is underway with enormous implications, not least for the world’s poor. As important as the impact this could have on our environment though, is the promise it holds for improving conditions and development prospects in the developing world.”

Sustainability goes well beyond using clean energy to grow economies without impacting the environment. Sustainability means that all of humanity is lifted up with a new wave of energy choices that will enable people to prosper and are good for our planet. When more than a billion people still live in the dark because of their remote location or poor economic conditions, any solution for a clean planet needs to include them.

More Choices, Less Cost

Technology is not only increasing choices for clean energy availability but also decreasing its costs. As the insightful article indicates, “The prospects for change have never been better. These bright prospects are driven by ongoing technological advances in renewable energy systems. Between 2010 and 2016, solar and wind electricity generation costs at auction fell by factors of about five and two, respectively.”

Availability and cost, enabled through technology, have brought about this clean energy tipping point that is now upon us. The increasing adoption of renewable energy, especially by the market movers, such as utilities, supported by consumer demand for sustainable choices and lower prices, is giving a boost to technological advancements in solar, wind, and hydrogen. In 2017, we have seen the deployment not only of more wind mills and solar cells, but more efficient ones. In hydrogen, advancements in the production of clean energy from water, such as Hydrogen 2.0, is opening possibilities for localized, always-available energy that can augment the effectiveness of solar, wind, and even fossil fuels.

Energy that Changes the Game

New energy models come with structural changes in the traditional way we generate and distribute energy. As the Quartz article points out, “The modular nature of renewable systems” is one of the factors accelerating this energy revolution. This is why, for instance, solar and energy storage companies were welcomed by the Puerto Rico government as smarter solutions to create a more resilient and sustainable electricity system for their island after Hurricane Maria devastated their infrastructure.

Distributed renewable energy also provides the way to help lift the billion people out of poverty by making electricity available where traditional, centralized electricity grids cannot go. Energy availability to cover basic life needs helps to free human energy and human capital to focus on entrepreneurship rather than subsistence, thereby, opening opportunities for people who had none just a few years ago.

We still have a long way to go. A billion people will not get electricity overnight, and the environmental impact of our cities will not be erased by technology alone. However, the path we are currently on leads to a smarter use of energy for all. At a time when it is easy to focus on the things that are not going well for our planet, it is easy to forget that human ingenuity and fortitude continue to flourish everywhere. That is plenty to be thankful for this year.

Happy Thanksgiving!


Photo courtesy of Christopher Michel.

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