NRDC: US transition to renewables is 'is irrevocably underway'
- The United States transition to renewable energy is "is irrevocably underway," according to a new report by the Natural Resources Defense Council, and it is unlikely that a change in Presidential administrations will be able to reverse that course.
- NRDC's Fourth Annual Energy Report shows the transition is being driven at the state level: more than one-fifth of the U.S. population lives in a state with a goal of at least 50% renewable energy.
- But among the report's recommendations, NRDC would like to see the federal government remain an active partner in a clean energy transition, and wants the transportation sector to support electric vehicles and stronger fuel economy standards to continue reducing demand for oil.
Donald Trump's name appears only once in NRDC's latest report on renewable energy, but an unspoken idea is this: Despite the President-elect's promises to undo energy regulations and embolden the fossil fuels industry, the country will not reverse course on decarbonization because the effort is being led by states, citizens and markets.
“The nationwide momentum for pollution-free energy is undeniable and irresistible because clean energy now costs less than dirty energy," Ralph Cavanagh, co-director of the NRDC energy program, said in a statement.
But Cavanagh, who is also the report's co-author, also added that strong local, state, and federal policies "are necessary for the United States to remain competitive globally and ensure clean energy technology and employment surge."
NRDC's analysis shows oil consumption in 2015 was 12% below its 2005 peak, marking a milestone in the expansion of clean energy. Historically low coal use, energy efficiency gains, and rising generation from solar and wind, pushed carbon dioxide emissions from electric generation below those of the entire transportation sector for half of the year.
To continue the progress, NRDC made several recommendations including calling on states to strengthen renewables goals and to adopt strong energy efficiency policies for U.S. homes, buildings, and appliances and equipment. Utilities must focus on reducing emissions from traditional generation while also adding more carbon-free sources. And clean energy companies and businesses need to continue creating jobs, helping to develop a sustainable energy economy.
“The past year in energy saw a number of victories for the environment, highlighted by a global climate agreement and a carbon pollution reduction plan for the United States," report co-author Kala Viswanthan said. "A clean energy revolution is underway, decarbonizing the electric grid through carbon reduction targets, energy efficiency gains, and renewable energy additions.”
But the United States' international and national commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions could be in jeopardy. This fall, the President-elect said he intends to loosen energy production restrictions, open more lands to exploration and eliminate costly regulations including the Clean Power Plan, which would curb greenhouse gas emissions 32% by 2030 from the power sector.
In September, the United States ratified commitments it made last year in United Nations climate talks aimed at keeping the impact of climate change below 2 degrees Celsius. For the United States, that would mean cutting emissions 26% by 2025. For the power sector, the deal is expected to give investors an indication of where they should put their money in a decarbonizing world.
- Natural Resources Defense Council NRDC’s Fourth Annual Energy Report: "Accelerating into a Clean Energy Future"
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