May 2019 Director’s Note

Three transformational milestones toward a clean energy economy have just been reached: 1) one in five Americans now live in states committed to 100 percent clean power; 2) renewables generated more electricity than coal for a month for the first time in the US; and 3) the cost of lithium ion batteries plunged 30 percent in the last year and over 85 percent in the last decade.

Washington, Nevada, New Mexico, California, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and Washington D.C. already have legislation committing to 100 percent clean electricity, while seven other states have similar legislation pending. Plus, there are more than 100 local governments that have committed to clean energy. This will drive solar installations from one every ten minutes in 2010 to one every minute by 2024 according to Wood Mackenzie. Already, the US surpassed 2 million solar PV installations three years after hitting the 1 million milestone, which took 40 years to reach.

That brings us to April’s momentous surpassing of coal energy by renewables (see article below). The coal crossover tipping point is forecasted by the Institute for Energy  Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) in 2019/2020, when renewables will begin to generate more energy than coal on a month-by-month basis.

The plummeting cost of battery technology will accelerate the rapid growth of renewable energy as electricity storage will change the grid, making it both more renewable and more reliable. Bloomberg NEF sees a 52 percent decrease in the cost of a utility-scale lithium–ion storage system by 2030 and finds that batteries co-located with solar or wind are cost-competitive with dispatchable coal and gas-fired generation in many markets. Storage will likely take the place of gas peaker plants that utilities would have invested in and may cause the retirement of existing plants. Although, it is electric vehicles (EV) that are forecast to drive the demand for energy storage worldwide, where Bloomberg NEF expects EV batteries to account for 84 percent of the demand by 2030.

The big picture- tremendous movement toward a clean energy economy is happening in the marketplace. And, this dovetails with overwhelming public sentiment for 100 percent clean renewable energy and the public’s willingness to pay for it.

Sherrie Gruder