By MICHAEL VINCI
A recent op-ed published on CNBC provides an interesting commentary on the future of American clean energy. According to the authors, Americans, independent of political affiliation, support and value the environment and clean energy.
Polling data provides evidence that both conservative and liberal respondents alike eagerly support government funded renewable technology, energy efficiency, and natural gas with regards to energy generations.
And the divisions manifest in the form of tactics, not goals – that is, we tend to disagree with how to best to achieve the same targets. The discrepancies come in the form of economics, business strategies, and policy tools.
The op-ed authors write that they believe policymakers and funders must strive to find solutions that are not regulatory and mandate oriented. An example provided of the wrong way to approach these goals: California. Despite the intensive results that California has experienced, and despite the praise and acclaim the state has received, the solutions utilized are not the only solutions, nor the best. The “California approach” may have worked in the past few years, but it may be incompatible under the Trump administration.
The debate surrounding how to fund renewables technology has unfortunately been centered on mandates – effectively overlooking other possible solutions that would similarly accelerate a transition to clean energy, according to the authors. Different, non-mandate, methods have the potential to grow the market for renewables while also building consensus and growing support for the movement.
For the sustainable energy industry to truly work, the conversation must shift to new ways to achieve the same goals.
A “better” example of how to approach the transition is found in the state of Texas. An imperfect model, sure, but it presents a middle ground on the spectrum of clean energy policy. It provides a balance of well-timed government policy in a limited way with technological innovation, privatized R&D and infrastructure investment, and a competitive market that natural provides the momentum for growth.
Between 2016 and 2035, the carbon emissions from the state of Texas will fall 28% below 2005 levels – all led by conservative policy makers which have dictated a competitive energy market. There will be no price appreciation as a result of these cuts, and reliability will not be affected.
The United States as a whole needs to find ways to inspire the competitive market that should exist naturally. The country already has an impressive track record with regards to finding innovative solutions to complex problems. New policy tools and the diversity of state models within the nation, combined with high levels of philanthropy, provide what should be the breeding ground for growth. We should be meeting the global demand for clean energy technology, given that demand is so high.
The op-ed authors take the opportunity to challenge leaders from both sides of the clean energy spectrum to broaden their ideas with respect to how to reach their goals.
They recommend a philanthropic model to help move the nation towards a sustainable energy economy. If so, we can cut pollution, create new jobs, and preserve grid reliability. All while costs continue to drop for all players involved.
The authors also call attention to the transportation and industrial sectors – sectors that should be included in the clean energy movement, but that are often ignored. The model provided by Texas can be applied to all these diverse industries.
If so, perhaps we can reach our goals sooner.