Choosing Clean Energy focuses on the power of innovation and the innovations that will power our future.
CHOOSING CLEAN ENERGY highlights the stories from the clean, renewable energy revolution that are happening across the United States. Choosing Clean Energy is a campaign of The Nature Conservancy. It promotes the positive economic and health benefits of cleaner, low-carbon energy technology in the United States. America has the opportunity to reinvent how we generate, transport and use our electric power. The electric power industry is in a state of rapid transformation, and in the next decade we will see a reinvention of how we generate, store, transmit and use electric power. New infrastructure, new business models and new energy services are needed so the American economy can reap the full benefit of these new opportunities. And in fact, if the United States wishes to remain globally competitive, it has an obligation to do so.
Choosing Clean Energy focuses on the power of innovation and the innovations that will power our future. Many of the solutions we need to address the conservation challenges of our time —increasing uptake of energy efficiency, investing in renewable energy sources, establishing a price on carbon, modernizing the electric grid, and increasing the use of nature based solutions— also offer the opportunity for more jobs, more consumer choice, lower costs, cleaner air and water, better soil quality and better health. We no longer need to choose between abundant energy and a cleaner environment. With careful planning, we can have both.
Renewables and Storage
For years, renewable energy in the form of wind and solar energy was considered an interesting option for obtaining electric power, but somewhat infeasible because of cost and reliability. Because the sun didn’t always shine, wind didn’t always blow, and coal and natural gas were so much cheaper and produced reliable power, renewables had little market traction.
But the times have changed and the technology has advanced, and it’s a new day. For one thing, the technology has advanced. Solar panels now produce more energy more efficiently. Wind turbines have grown in size and produce more energy. Battery technology has advanced to the point where renewable installations that utilize solar-plus storage or wind-plus storage can bring electric power to the marketplace at costs that rival or even beat the cost of fossil fuels, even natural gas. New renewable energy sources, including geothermal, wave action, and other innovations are being explored.
Creating Clean Energy Jobs
All this new technology is not only bringing cleaner energy and cheaper energy, it’s creating jobs. The fastest growing professions in the US are solar installer and wind turbine technician. And these are jobs that cannot be outsourced. Careful consideration of appropriate siting of these new renewable energy installations is also part of the revolution that’s happening. Smart siting techniques are bringing energy facilities online with better understanding of how to minimize impacts to wildlife and ecosystems.
Smart Grid Modernization
Clean energy resources lead to lower emissions, increase consumer choice and create jobs. But to achieve a clean energy future, the electric grid must be modernized. As the nation’s power grid evolves to provide new services and cleaner energy, technologies such as control centers, communications systems and sensors across the distribution system are playing an increasing role in managing power supply and use.
At the same time, consumers are being oﬀered new technologies—from smart thermostats, to solar panels to electric vehicles and energy storage—making their choices an increasingly important part of how the grid performs as an essential service.
The beneﬁts of a modern grid are many:
- More eﬃcient use of primary energy.
- More reliable and resilient power supply.
- More consumer control of electric power bills.
- Integration of clean and distributed energy resources.
- Electriﬁcation of the transportation sector.
- Cheaper and cleaner power for remote communities.
Encouraging Energy Efficiency
Energy efficiency is by far the easiest way to make a positive impact on our communities, our wallets and our planet. If we use less energy, we burn less fuel, and we can forego the construction of new energy production and transmission facilities across the landscape that fragment habitat and contribute to air and water pollution.
Energy efficiency has other important benefits for Americans. It can save consumers significant amounts of money on utility bills and at the gas pump. If we use less energy, imports of oil and natural gas also decline so that our economy can be more secure. Energy efficiency also lowers greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change.
Homeowners, businesses, institutions and municipalities are learning that energy efficiency is an easy way to save money and contribute to a low carbon future. Learn more about all the ways people are reducing the amount of carbon pollution they create by being more efficient in how they use energy.
Americans love their cars, and in the United States, the transportation sector is the largest source of carbon pollution. Transitioning America’s fleet of over 276 million registered vehicles from gas to electric, and eliminating the millions of tons of carbon emissions from that fleet is a monumental task. And while the technology to make an electric-powered automobile has existed in theory for decades, it has only been in the past few years that we’re seeing electric vehicles being offered on the market that may serve as a true alternative to a car with a gas-powered engine.
Electric cars and trucks are popular, and fascinate the public. That said, we’re a long way away from making electric vehicles America’s first choice in transportation, and from having the infrastructure necessary to support a fully electrified fleet of cars, trucks and other vehicles.
Few would argue that pollution ought to be cost-free. And we have seen that when goods and services reflect the cost of pollution, consumers demand cleaner products. Where demand exists, innovation follows.
Carbon pricing puts the technology challenge on getting to a clean energy future where it should be—in the hands of innovators—and incentivizes companies to be ambitious in cutting pollution because there is economic benefit in their doing so. Innovation and cost efficiency are the metrics of success. Applied to long-term emissions reductions targets, carbon pricing gives companies the opportunity to efficiently build these costs into a business plan and maximize economic growth. And it harnesses the power of the marketplace—both consumers and producers—in ensuring that the cost of unlimited pollution is not shouldered by the most vulnerable.