“A move to 100% renewable power is practical, achievable, economically sound and overwhelmingly popular.”
The words in the headline are from a new report about moving rapidly to 100% clean energy in Australia, but they could apply just as well to the United States. Let’s look at the key points of “The Homegrown Power Plan,” keeping in mind that Australia at present is overwhelmingly powered by fossil fuels. In other words, if a rapid transition to 100% clean energy can be carried out in Australia, it certainly can happen here.
- “A transition to 100% renewable energy within one generation is both technically feasible and economically responsible.” This would mean enormous fuel-cost savings; a big “slice of the global renewables investment boom, and all the jobs that come with it;” and “lower prices as early as 2025, and by 2040 at the latest.”
- The current electricity market “combines the worst aspects of multiple regimes in the one system.” “It’s old, outdated and it’s not getting better. Its institutions were designed for a centralised era, populated by passive consumers and powered by fossil fuels. It’s a system dominated by a few controlling power companies.” It’s also “wasteful” and highly polluting.
- Moving to 100% clean energy means completely redesigning the electricity system. Among other suggestions, the report advocates moving “from analog to digital,” encouraging “millions of us…to trade renewable energy locally,” “ensur[ing] equal access to the grid,” and rewarding power companies for “helping people use less energy at peak times.”
- “Unleash the Renewables Boom.” Suggestions to make this happen include setting ambitious (e.g., 100% by 2030) renewable energy targets; having the government invest in clean energy innovation; encourage community “solar gardens,” wind farms and low-income energy efficiency efforts.
- Remove the main roadblocks to 100% clean energy by “get[ting[ fossil fuels out of the market and into the history books.” That means, among other things, “undoing] the legacy of years of industry lobbying, like our lax efficiency standards and wasteful fossil fuel subsidies.” The money saved by cutting wasteful corporate welfare for fossil fuel polluters should be redirected to “problem solvers” and energy innovators. At the minimum, the playing field needs to be level for clean energy investment, not tilted towards fossil fuels.
- Stop thinking small. As the report correctly asserts,” the transition to renewable energy is physically inevitable in the long run,” the only question being how fast this transition takes place. The need for rapid action is clear, given the urgency of global warming that’s being turbocharged by the combustion of carbon-based fuels. Fortunately, fossil fuel-powered electricity is “the easiest to replace,” particularly given the plummeting costs for clean energy. Which means that “the faster we transition, the sooner we benefit.”
If you think about each one of these points, it’s clear that they can be applied to the United States as well. As in Australia, we are stuck with an antiquated, top-down, dirty and expensive electric utility model that needs to be replaced. Fortunately, we also have enormous clean energy potential, with enough potential in clean energy resources so that “the projected 2050 U.S. electricity demand can be met many times over by renewables.” And we also have movement in the right direction, although it needs to be speeded up. The only question is whether our system of incentives and laws catches up to the clean energy revolution that’s taking place at increasing speed, or whether we continue to allow powerful, entrenched fossil fuel interests to slow down the inevitable transition to a 100% clean energy economy. The correct answer is clear.