America Has Spoken: We All Want Clean, Renewable Energy
Lynn Jurich· 4
The American public wants 100% renewable energy. The country can seem divided on many issues, but we are aligned on this.
I am a climate optimist. If you take a step back, the numbers tell an encouraging story. It doesn’t matter if you are a Democrat in Arizona or a Republican in Florida; across the country, people are recognizing that solar power is clean, viable, and simply better than dirty fossil fuels. We all want a renewable, reliable energy future.
Don’t just take my word for it. This was the main finding from a recent survey commissioned by the Edison Electric Institute (EEI), a utility trade group. In an article on Vox, David Roberts pulled out some of the main points from the research, noting that even in a closed-door meeting, EEI could not hide from the truth.
Consumers are more sophisticated than utilities give them credit for
“The takeaway: Renewables are a public opinion juggernaut,” wrote Roberts. “Being against them is no longer an option. The industry’s best and only hope is to slow down the stampede a bit (and that’s what they plan to try).”
The study found that 74% of those polled believe we should be using solar “as much as possible,” and that consumers reject the utility talking point that we can have either reliable energy or clean energy, but not both.
That’s because we can have both. We can have power that’s not only clean and reliable, but also affordable and a boon to the U.S. economy. A SEIA survey that came out just after the EEI results found that 9 out of 10 registered voters in the U.S. feel strongly that their power company should not be able to stop them from using solar power. Everyone wants to be a part of the clean energy revolution.
Solar power is an economic boon
Between 2010 and 2016, the solar industry has added more than 150,000 jobs, a 168% increase. Solar in the U.S. now employs more than 250,000 Americans in good-paying jobs, well above the national average, that can’t be outsourced or automated. In the last five years alone, solar employment grew nine times faster than the overall U.S. economy, with one in every 100 new jobs being a solar job. In fact, according to data from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the solar installer will be the fastest growing job in America over the next decade.
This does not bode well for the utilities’ two favorite anti-solar talking points: It is too costly, and it’s killing jobs. It’s become clear that not only is this not true, but consumers can see right through.
But what about cost to the consumer? Well, solar is affordable, often with zero upfront cost. Sunrun customers alone have saved over $200 million on their electric bills!
Stanford researchers say moving to clean energy will end up saving the average family hundreds of dollars per year in energy and health care costs. We’re already seeing it happen: Over the last decade, the cost of installed solar panels came down 65% and the cost of batteries came down 84 percent. Market researchers forecast the cost of installed solar panels will decline 61% while the cost of batteries will decline 49% over the next 10 years.
Consumers recognize all values of solar power
However, being affordable and saving money in the long run is simply not the only thing consumers care about. The most incredible finding from the EEI survey is that a majority of Americans believe that 100% renewables is a good idea, even if it raises their energy bills by 30 percent.
This is a mind-boggling fact. Energy costs can be painfully high, and asking the average American to pay more than what they already do seems extreme. Yet the SEIA survey backs up the same sentiment, finding that consumers are adept at recognizing both long and short-term value in solar, and believe it is a good long-term choice.
These two surveys, sourced from very different sides of the spectrum, tell an extremely compelling story. Solar is here to stay. It polls better than any other electricity source, and across party lines. By removing obstacles to the widespread adoption of home solar, we can get closer to the clean, affordable and resilient energy future everyone wants.