What's not to love about sustainable, renewable energy produced by the sun, the wind, the water? City and community leaders across the nation are finding that these forms of energy are becoming increasingly popular across their diverse constituencies, for (mostly) economic reasons.
Lester Brown, the founder of Earth Policy Institute and recipient of a MacArthur Foundation "genius grant”, has been called “one of the world’s most influential thinkers”. He explains the dynamic quite simply: solar and wind energy have become popular because they've become price-competitive. Most of the big homebuilders in the U.S. are installing solar panels on new rooftops. Farmers and ranchers are big fans of the earning potential from wind turbines on their land (pun intended). Some states are experiencing a "solar rush" as residents take advantage of rooftop incentive programs which appeal to their desire for clean energy and longterm savings. And many Americans are attracted to the control offered by getting energy from their own rooftops -- "from 10 feet over our heads” versus "from halfway around the world".
Meanwhile, “the billionaires are investing in renewable energy: Warren Buffett invested $15 billion,” as Brown tells The Christian Science Monitor's Gregory Lamb. Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla and Chairman of Solar City, has invested big in gigafactories to produce storage batteries for home and commercial use. “There’s a whole list of billionaires just piling money into this. What that does for investment is it says, This is where the smart money is going. You don’t get to be a billionaire by being stupid.” Are you willing to wager that renewable energy is here to stay?
Fracking for oil and gas is booming across the United States. Low gasoline prices are making it affordable to wheel around in an SUV that gets 15 miles per gallon, at least for now.
But out of sight of most consumers there’s an energy revolution brewing, says Lester Brown. Consider:
• Denmark now gets more than 60 percent of its electricity from wind.
• China receives more electricity from its wind farms than from its nuclear power plants.
• Texas, the No. 1 oil-producing state, is now the No. 1 wind-power state, with plans to export the electricity generated to other states. Kansas and many other “wind rich” states are following suit.
The rise of sustainable energy – mainly wind and solar – is going to take many people by surprise, says Mr. Brown, founder of the Earth Policy Institute, whose latest book, “The Great Transition: Shifting from Fossil Fuels to Solar and Wind Energy,” with coauthors Janet Larsen, J. Matthew Roney, and Emily E. Adams, tracks the seismic changes now under way.
Among those who see what’s happening are billionaire investors such as Warren Buffett and Philip Anschutz, Brown says.
Stay connected and get updates from Path to Positive.Subscribe