Hand-off to 2016
My challenge is what to leave out. That 2015 was the hottest year on record?
That the global temperature reached 1ºC above the pre-industry level and
atmospheric carbon has exceeded 400 parts per million? Pope Francis’ encyclical?
The IEA’s forecast that ¼ of the world will convert to renewable energy by 2020?
That transition to sustainable energy by 2030 is
technically feasible and
Some have already switched to 100% fossil-fuel-free electricity, as Denmark’s Samsø Island has years ago. Uruguay now exports renewably generated electricity to Argentina. Burlington, VT; Aspen, CO; Greensburg, KS and Kodiak Island, Alaska, have completed the transition.
The Damariscotta area already has 145 kW of solar panels and also the state’s first ownership-based solar farm. We are on track to add 110 kW more in 2016 -- a 75% boost. Solar farms are in the works in Freeport, Wayne, Wiscasset, and Bar Harbor, to mention a few. Belfast is working on its second solar power purchase agreement, repurposing their long-capped town dump.
Just weeks ago in Paris 196 countries signed an agreement to limit global temperature rise to under 2ºC. National pledges to back this up fall short. Still, this agreement opens the door to a worldwide energy transition – provided we, the people, decide to lead.
The agreement is a market signal. It turns fossil fuels into a losing bet, and renewable energy into an economic opportunity: We must leave coal, oil and gas in the ground and convert to clean energy. Already, since 2013, the world added more power from renewables than from coal, natural gas and oil combined. Major companies are pledging to go 100% renewable. Global investment in renewable energy hit $310 billion last year, according to Bloomberg.
A Stanford/ UC-Berkeley study details how each state and country can convert economically to 100% renewable energy. The only barriers to this are political. As if to underscore this, Congress extended to 2019 the 30% solar tax credit, which thereafter will gradually decline to 10% by 2022. Projects will need only to have begun construction, not operation, as is the case now.
Much of the growth in renewable energy comes from localities leading their laggard national governments by cutting their own carbon footprints. The city council of San Diego unanimously agreed to transition to 100% clean energy by 2035. Vancouver, Las Vegas and major cities around the world are also going 100% renewable. Hawaii has pledged to do so by 2045. New York City’s municipal operations will run on 100% renewable energy before 2050. Over 350 U.S. state and local elected officials signed a letter pledging 50% clean energy by 2030 and 100% by 2050. And, aided by an imaginative state program, Nassau, NY (Population 5,000) voted to be 100% off the power grid by 2020, running its municipal buildings on a combination of solar panels, wind turbines and methane captured from organic wastes.
Not a bad run for 2015. Hand off the baton. Here is to our leadership in 2016!