As we head into Thanksgiving weekend, it’s time to take stock of our world and give thanks for things we hold dear. There’s a lot to reflect on this year, as the coronavirus recedes, the war in Ukraine drags on, and gas and electric bills reach record highs.
From a climate perspective, “the things Americans value most are at risk,” warns a new government report on the effects of extreme weather on our daily lives. Whereas, back in the 1980s, the nation suffered a billion-dollar weather disaster once every four months or so, now they are coming once every three weeks, on average.
Besides putting more property in harm’s way, we’ve seen the lower 48 states warm by 2.5 degrees Fahrenheit (1.4 degrees Celsius) over the last 50 years, which is 68% more than the Earth has warmed as a whole. This reflects a global pattern in which land masses are warming faster than oceans are, and higher latitudes (like New England) are warming faster than lower latitudes. And while America – thankfully – has begun to cut its carbon emissions in recent years, it needs to pick up the pace of reductions to 6% per year to stay on track with zero-emission goals set for 2050.
As a critical next step, global clean energy investments need to reach $2 trillion a year by 2030, a rise of more than 50% from today’s levels. That’s a tall order! But, thanks to new energy policies adopted by some of the world’s largest carbon-emitting countries, we now can expect global emissions growth to plateau by 2025, even though the three main greenhouse gases – carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide – are still reaching record levels right now.
Annual Growth in GHG Emissions: 1985-2021
U.S. Makes Big Policy Gains to Support Clean Energy
The United States is singled out for making the biggest policy gains in the last year, according to a just-released annual energy outlook from the International Energy Agency. The Inflation Reduction Act passed by Congress last summer targets a 40% reduction in U.S. GHG emissions by 2030. With extended and expanded tax credits available for renewable energy and electric vehicles, the IEA believes that the United States is poised to raise its production of solar and wind power by two and a half times over today’s levels, while growing annual sales of EVs seven-fold, by 2030.
And, as painful as recent gasoline and electricity price hikes have been for many consumers, they are triggering changes in buying patterns to avoid the price volatility of fossil fuels and lock in more stable and affordable solar power for use in homes and electric vehicles. This new thinking comes at just the right time, as growing demand for electric vehicles and air conditioning will be the two leading sources of electricity demand growth in the decades to come.
Now, with new clean energy policies gaining traction in the U.S. and other big-emitting countries, the IEA says the end of the fossil fuel era is in sight. Coal, having seen an uptick in demand following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, is expected to resume its long-term decline within a few years. Demand for natural gas is expected to peak by the end of this decade.
And rising sales of electric vehicles should bring about “peak oil” by no later than 2035 – depending on how fast stated government policies (STEPS in the chart) move in the direction of announced new pledges (APS) and net zero emissions (NZE) goals set for 2050.
The IEA energy outlook also rebuffs a “mistaken idea” that growth in clean fuels is somehow responsible for today’s energy price inflation. “That is simply not true,” the IEA insists. “The world is struggling with too little clean energy, not too much. Faster clean energy transitions would have helped to moderate the impact of this [energy] crisis, and they represent the best way out of it.”
Stepping Up the Pace of Clean Energy Investments
The bottom line is that rapid and fundamental changes in energy spending will be required to meet the twin challenges facing climate and energy policy. Whereas $1.50 is being invested now in renewable energy for every dollar spent on fossil fuels, by 2030, the rate of spending will need to increase to $5 on clean energy for every buck spent on fossil fuels. And another $4 will need to be spent on energy efficiency improvements to meet the net-zero carbon emission goals set for 2050.
Fortunately, the Inflation Reduction Act is making these clean energy investments much more affordable and attractive. In two recent posts, we lay out how tax incentives for electric vehicles and other electrical devices can help pay back the cost of Tracker-generated solar power in just a few years – while locking in a quarter-century of clean, reliable, fixed cost, renewable electricity.
So, if you’re ready to fight climate change, spend less money on fossil fuels, and save on your overall energy bill, it’s time for us to connect. Solaflect Energy is your home energy management partner. We help you install clean and affordable solar electricity and home battery systems for a more resilient and climate-friendly future. For more information email us, or call (802) 649-3700.