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100 Percent?
It’s Still the Economy, Stupid

Paul Kando

Climate and environmental concerns, a desire for local control over energy, the benefit of free fuel are all good reasons for pursuing public renewable energy goals. But one of the most important is economic growth: attracting manufacturers, software designers, installers and other green energy businesses.

photo credit: Berkeley Labs

According to a January 2017  U.S. Department of Energy report, out of 26 Gigawatts (GW) of new utility-scale electric generation added to the U.S. grid in 2016, 93% rely on three resources: 9.5 GW of solar, 8 GW of natural gas, and 6.8 GW of wind.

According to Advanced Energy Economy (AEE) — a national association of business leaders intent on making the global energy system more secure, clean, and affordable – the renewable and advanced energy sector is poised to create up to 3.3 million jobs – equal to the total US employment in retail sales and twice as many as in building construction. In contrast, coal mining – which the current administration hopes to revive – reached a peak employment of just under 90,000 jobs in 2012 and now employs only 53,000 people. The energy efficiency sector, which can support about three times as many jobs as the mining industry and, unlike mining, is growing and creating good-paying jobs in weatherizing homes, installing solar systems and smart grids, and manufacturing high-efficiency appliances, building materials and more.

Renewable energy and microgrids are natural partners. Modern microgrids usually include solar energy plus energy storage and provide a kind of counterbalance on the grid to the intermittency of renewable energy. When a cloud passes over a solar panel or the wind stops, a microgrid can quickly inject energy from other sources into the grid, to keep power flowing steadily, avoiding a voltage drop or a power outage. Using its own intelligent operating software, the microgrid draws upon its various internal resources – e.g. energy storage or a combined heat and power system – to serve the grid. Microgrids are a newer industry than renewables, but as renewables continue to proliferate, so will microgrids, because the more renewable energy we introduce, the more microgrids will be needed.

By 2013, 8 countries, 42 cities, and 49 regions or states had either reached a 100% renewable energy goal or were on their way to do so. Today those numbers are up to more than 50 countries, 69 cities and 62 regions/states, according to the Renewables 100 Policy Institute., which maintains a worldwide data base of 100% renewable projects. The link to that database is here

The International Energy Agency warns that without a change in national energy policies, the global temperature will rise by six degrees by the end of this century. The failure of our state or federal authorities to act does not excuse us from doing locally what we can. Our descendants’ future is at stake. Will you, dear reader, please peruse that data base and, inspired by the achievements of others, share your own creative ideas with the rest of our community? What should our own 100% renewable energy plan look like?