According to data recently uncovered from the Energy Information Agency, electricity coming from non-hydroelectric renewable sources (solar, wind, geothermal, and biomass) has doubled in the U.S. to almost 6 percent in a scant four years’ time.
It’s a bit surprising that this significant fact hasn’t been splashed all over the news. Businesses are portrayed as not believing clean energy is worth the investment, but that is simply not true for all. Some companies see the wisdom and fiscal prudence in planning for climate change. The press appears to focus more on manufacturing problems in the sector.
While it is true that the green manufacturing industry is experiencing some growing pains, take solar panel makers for example, it’s worth noting that the green industry is growing overall, and quickly too. China made enormous investments in solar, and they are the face of rising competition. They’ve brought down the price of panels by 65 percent in a mere 18 months. So this leads to fewer and bigger solar manufacturers, which is what happens in all mature industries. However, the explosion of growth in the solar industry comes from the businesses that sell, install, and maintain solar.
Perhaps renewable energy seems like small potatoes since it’s only a fraction of total electricity generation. But the magic is in the industry’s potential for exponential growth. If non-hydro renewables were to double three more times, they would provide nearly half of US electricity needs. That’s more than we get from coal or natural gas right now.
The renewable energy industry’s growth is not just limited to the U.S. either. Countries such as Portugal and Germany have transformed their power grids to generate 25 – 45 percent of their electricity needs from renewable sources.
The big question is if non-hydroelectric renewables can continue to double every four years? Well let’s start by taking a look at what kind of growth would be required to do so. Non-hydro renewables need 19 percent annual growth in order to double every four years. Some sectors grow that much or more. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, the solar sector is growing 30 percent annually.
The bottom line is that the payback time for investing in renewable energy is getting faster every day. Wise homeowners, businesses, and governments are ahead of the curve because they see that the future is in renewable sources.
Just when we were about to succumb to the gloomy picture that is global climate change, a ray of hope breaks through the clouds. A technical report released this month by the U.S. Energy Information Agency calculated that energy related U.S. carbon dioxide emissions, which account for about 98 percent of total CO2 emissions, for the first four months of 2012 decreased to around 1992 levels.
The dramatic decrease is attributed to a switch from dirtier burning coal to cleaner natural gas. Almost everyone in the energy and environmental industries believes the shift could have major long-term implications for U.S. energy policy.
Scientists didn’t predict the amount of carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere in the U.S. falling to its lowest level in 20 years in part because the decrease is not attributed to legislation limiting greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide. The switch to natural gas was driven by the market.
The state of the economy, increasing efforts for energy efficiency and a growing utilization of renewable energy are certainly aspects that contribute to lowering U.S. carbon emissions. However, at the moment, the lion’s share is due to the current low price of natural gas. There has been an upsurge in shale gas drilling in the northeast, Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana, which has made natural gas more affordable than coal per unit of energy generated. Gas production is on the increase because of the modernization of the process of hydraulic fracturing, also called fracking, where highly pressurized water, sand and chemicals are inserted to fracture shale rock which releases natural gas.
While natural gas is a cleaner-burning energy source than coal, it is not emission-free. There is still some carbon dioxide emitted and drilling can have environmental impacts such as contamination of ground water, air quality risks, migration of gases and hydraulic fracturing chemicals to the surface, and surface contamination from spills and flowback.
There are also concerns that the rise in use of natural gas could stall renewable energy efforts. The ultimate goal should still be a mix of increasing energy efficiency and clean energy with the balance kept to a minimum of natural gas.
So the upshot is that the U.S. energy picture is far from perfect, but the news concerning a drastic decline in U.S. carbon dioxide levels is welcome and positive because it reminds us that there is still time to turn around the fate of the planet’s climate.
Carbonfund.org seeks to partner with businesses that subscribe to the same mission of solving the climate crisis. The goal of achieving a clean energy future is more complex than simply meeting carbon emission reductions targets. Any solution needs to be sustainable, and sustainability is one of the cornerstones of Carbonfree® business partner TCX Investment Management Company.
The global TCX Fund provides protection and risk control against currency devaluation in frontier market currencies for major development finance institutions to microfinance institutions and other institutions investing in the communities of many emerging market countries, such as Cambodia, Kenya, Bangladesh, Mongolia, Peru, and Vietnam. This translates into providing a mechanism to absorb the risk of extreme currency value fluctuations so these institutions can assist local businesses with the startup funding they need. TCX is able to make real contributions to sustainable development and to improving the living standards in communities in some of theleast developed countries on our planet.
TCX maintains a Sustainability Policy requiring that the businesses they assist also meet environmental sustainability goals.A key tenet of the TCX policy maintains that any projects receiving funding should pursue development for the needs of the present population without impairing the ability of future generations to meet community needs. All projects are expected to include pollution prevention and abatement, biodiversity conservation, and sustainable natural resources management.
Carbonfund.org and TCX have partnered to help TCX reach its own operational emission reduction goals. In the past three years, TCX Investment Management has neutralized a total of almost 460 metric tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions created by its annual operations – the equivalent of removing 82 passenger vehicles from the road for a year – in part by supporting Carbonfund.org’s renewable energy projects."We chose Carbonfund.org because of their verified programs, pricing and easy-to-use customer friendly services," confirms Bill Piccolo, Operations Manager for TCX.
TCX’s operational emissions neutralization program supports Carbonfund.org’s renewable energy projects, and in doing so, enhances air quality and promotes new technology development that will continue to reduce carbon emissions and hasten the transition to a cleaner energy future. Carbonfund.org looks forward a continued partnership with TCX in pursuingthe paired goals of sustainable development and environmental stewardship.