A lot has changed with energy productivity and consumption in the past few years.
According to the 2017 Sustainable Energy in America Factbook, the U.S. economy is growing – GDP has grown by 12% since 2007 – while energy consumption has actually fallen by 3.6%.
Retail electricity prices are low and overall usage and spending on energy has decreased.
In addition to the reduction in energy consumption, CO2 emissions are at an all time low. According to Green Tech Media, U.S. greenhouse gas emissions hit a 25-year low in 2016, down 12% from 2007 and 11.6% below 2005 levels.
The power sector’s carbon footprint has gone down by a whopping 24% since 2005 as renewable energy has become more available and affordable. Solar module prices have fallen 90% below 2008 levels, and wind is now competitive with fossil fuels in many regions of the country.
Utilities have made significant investments in energy efficient programs and, at the same time, alternative energy productivity and efficiency has increased.
Today’s solar panels capture more sunlight than ever before and battery technology has greatly improved. As solar energy has become less expensive and more efficient, more Americans are turning towards renewable energy as a cost effective alternative.
Recent regulations have also made it easier for consumers to invest in solar technology. For example, there are currently several ways to purchase a solar system for your home or business.
You can purchase the hardware outright and install it yourself – which can cost upwards of $30,000 – or go through a solar services provider like San Mateo-based SolarCity Corporation that will finance the hardware over several years.
Other “community solar” options enable consumers to buy-in to a “mini-grid.” Though power generated by the grid may not go to your home or business specifically, it provides a way for consumers to participate in alternative energy while saving on fossil fuel consumption.
As more and more consumers invest in solar technology, the result is a win-win for the environment, as well as the economy.
Though the energy debate has historically centered on the argument that decreasing pollution makes energy more expensive, renewable energy sources like solar and wind are actually emerging as the cheapest alternative.
That’s right – renewable energy sources are not only the cleanest, but also the cheapest way to generate electricity!
Whether or not renewable energy will outnumber natural gas and coal plants fast enough to have a long term effect on climate change remains to be seen.
The good news is that today’s consumers are more aware of renewable energy sources and their benefits and more and more are beginning to use it. Ultimately, it will be up to the people and the political environment to drive the market.