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Making Renewables Happen in the U.S.

3p Contributor | Wednesday October 5th, 2011 | 0 Comments

We all hear interesting information on how renewable energy is exactly what we need to meet our energy needs and also free us from disastrous climate change caused by greenhouse gases. Renewable energy has made progress with recent growth, less than 2 percent of electricity the U.S. generates a year comes from solar or wind power. More than 66 percent still comes from fossil fuels, and 20 percent comes from nuclear power, another nonrenewable resource.

Our energy consumption continues to increase and the amount of fossil fuels and nuclear fuels continue to decline. The consequences of using those fuels are well known, so this is a great opportunity to have the U.S., the world’s greatest consumer of energy, to have renewables become the dominant source of energy.

There are several obstacles to overcome in order to have the much-needed switch to renewables. One of which is location. Some renewables are better suited to some areas than others. However, the good news is that it allows fuels to become decentralized and therefore allows for entrepreneurship in areas where a certain source is easy to manage. Texas, a state many do not consider “green” has a lot of progressive activities happening in Austin where several companies and private citizens have made considerable efforts to make a greener, better future. A wide range of private properties already contain solar panels to help reduce their electric bill, whether they open their garage doors, keep their kitchen lights on, or even keeps the A/C running, the costs are much cheaper than with conventional electricity prices. Every region has something to offer, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

Economics are another reason why the switch to renewable has taken so long. It is still cheaper to burn fossil fuels and the costs of replacing the old electrical grids are high. When the total cost of installing and running a solar-power system becomes equal to that of buying conventional power that will be what overcomes this obstacle. The equipment and installation are expensive, but after that, it costs very little.

In the large systems now running in the Southwest, operating costs are as low as 1 cent per kilowatt-hour. In fact, the return on investment is high and rapid – and prices have dropped significantly in the past two years. The fuel source itself is free and the maintenance is very simple and safe. What will overcome the issue of the power grid replacement? One expert suggests a combination of technological breakthroughs, cheaper solar panels, better storage, and either an increase in natural gas prices or a carbon tax. The technology is moving quickly, so things may happen sooner than later.

Politically, we will have to internalize the costs of our fossil fuel burning activities so that every part of what we do will have the reality of how fossil fuels affect our lives. The companies and governments will have to work together. Several states will need to set standards and have incentives to make companies want to move forward. Partisan politics are a major obstacle to overcome, as we can see while we watch both parties’ actions before the presidential election.

The politics will respond if the citizens make it clear that there needs to be changes made for energy sources. It has worked in other countries, and it easily can work in ours. The upcoming elections are a wonderful time to start this process as data is showing that more Americans are realizing climate change is real and want to do something about it.

The U.S. has had a slow start in renewables, but it can catch up quickly. The production of the equipment and the labor and demand for it are all right here.

Image source: Living off Grid


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