Over the last five years, solar generation in Nevada has increased seven-fold. Iowa and Texas have doubled their wind power production. And, across the U.S., renewable energy has been growing exponentially: In the first quarter of this year, it made up about 15% of total electricity output. Solar alone now powers the equivalent of 6 million homes.
You can see this progress in these new graphics from the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental nonprofit. In gigawatt hours (GWh), they show where solar and wind have taken off fastest, and particularly how renewables are spread across both blue and red states, indicating their fundamental worthiness (as opposed to their ideological appeal). It’s all about cost and availability. Texas leads the nation in wind power because it has lots of wind resources and because the cost of wind power has been reduced by about 50% since 2008.
Will this growth continue now we have a coal-industry lobbyist running the Environmental Protection Agency? There are reasons to be hopeful. Federal tax breaks for solar and wind have across the board support in the Senate (Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley told Yahoo News this summer that if Trump wants to kill the wind energy production tax credit, which Grassley helped establish, he’ll have to do it “over my dead body.”)
Second, a lot of government support for renewables comes from the states rather than Washington, D.C. As the NRDC says, 29 states and the District of Columbia now have “renewable portfolio standards” requiring utilities to produce certain proportions of power from clean sources. For example, California and New York have 50% targets by 2030, while Hawaii wants 100% by 2045. Meanwhile, many city mayors want to increase renewable production: 39 leaders recently wrote to Trump saying that unmitigated climate change could cost the U.S. economy $500 billion annually by 2050.
Whatever a Trump administration does or doesn’t do on climate change in the next four years, it’s possible that renewable energy has enough momentum to survive. Thank you technology and market forces.