In 2018, renewable energy solutions provider Solar Energy bought 80% of the output of a PG&E-owned solar farm. This is likely a glimpse of things to come. Across the country, utilities are stepping up and providing financial support for their customers’ efforts to reduce their carbon footprint and become more energy independent.
Utilities are also finding new ways to integrate renewables into their infrastructure. California utilities, for example, are required by state law to get 33% of their energy supply from renewable resources by 2025. As a part of this effort, PG&E is helping to fund the installation of solar farms across the state. The company owns a large amount of land that it wants to lease to tenants who generate power for local communities. This program, Community Solar Pilot Program, provides low-interest loans, along with technical assistance and support, to help homeowners and businesses install solar panels on their rooftops. The state-mandated targets for renewable energy aren’t challenging, and many utilities are already well on their way to meeting those goals.
The Rise Of Renewables
The use of renewable energy sources like solar and wind power, along with hydrogen fuel cells, to generate electricity is increasing due to their zero-emission qualities and lack of harmful toxins. According to the American Council on Renewable Energy, electric power companies are now investing in renewable energy projects, totaling about $32 billion annually.
While there are still considerable challenges, such as the cost of equipment and installation, along with the need for suitable locations and adequate sunlight, the industry is moving forward. In 2018, investment in renewable energy reached an all-time high, with more than $16 billion invested in new projects worldwide. The industry expects this figure to more than double by the end of 2021. A record 17.4 million solar modules were installed worldwide in 2018, which is about 10 times the number installed in 2017. The global market for solar power is projected to be valued at $26 billion by next year.
Why Are Utilities Investing In Renewables?
It’s no secret that utilities suffer from low customer engagement and a perception that they are distant and unresponsive. The American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE) cites the lack of public trust as one of the major reasons why utilities invest in renewables.
Utilities have also been caught flat-footed by the rapid rise of renewable energy. According to an ACORE study, utilities typically take a decade or more to plan for and implement energy efficiency upgrades. In contrast, renewables require significant investments in planning and project management, along with an understanding of how to integrate variable sources of energy, like the sun and the wind.
Finally, renewables provide a steady source of revenue for electric utilities, mitigating the effect of the recent trend towards lower demand, which is projected to continue in the coming years. As a result, many utilities have adjusted their business models and have adopted a more sustainable approach. Some have gone so far as to eliminate their traditional energy sources and rely solely on renewables.
Is Solar Energy The Answer To All Of Our Energy Needs?
Although it’s well-established that renewables can play an important role in reducing our dependence on fossil fuels, it’s not necessarily the case that all of our energy needs can be met by solar power. According to the latest study from the United Nations, the world’s energy needs will increase by 56% in the next 15 years.
According to the Global Solar Market Report 2021, a staggering amount of investment is being poured into the renewable energy sector as governments around the world work to achieve sustainable energy targets. The report cites a need for 160 million solar modules for homes and businesses by the year 2030.
However, even with all of that investment, solar power isn’t always the most affordable or the most suitable option for all of our energy needs. That’s why we need to continue researching alternative, non-renewable sources of energy as well. One promising technology is nuclear power, which generates roughly 20% of the electricity used in the U.S. and is considered to be one of the safer and more sustainable forms of energy. Moreover, nuclear power plants generate fewer harmful byproducts and can operate for longer periods of time.
Solar Energy And Public Policy
One of the key areas where solar energy and public policy intersect is in the financial realm. The industry is highly reliant on government subsidies, such as tax credits and rebates, along with loan guarantees and favorable financing. Policy makers can play a crucial role in encouraging utilities and other companies in the electric sector to shift towards more sustainable energy sources like solar and wind power. According to the Solar Energy Industry Association, solar power systems account for about 3.8% of the country’s electricity consumption, but they produce about 14% of the country’s electricity.
Although about 80% of the country’s electricity is generated by fossil fuels, like coal and natural gas, most of that energy comes from plants that are decades old and, thus, harmful to the environment. As a result, there has been an increase in the use of solar power. Between 1978 and 2016, the amount of energy produced by solar power increased by 471%, from 600 million kWh to above 21 billion kWh.
In addition, with the world’s largest economies, like China and the United States, committing to sustainable energy targets, the world’s largest solar companies, like the Japanese conglomerate Mitsubishi, have committed to investing heavily in the sector. This has resulted in a major expansion of the solar industry, with the capacity to produce more than enough electricity to supply all of the planet’s requirements. The industry is growing rapidly, with the demand for solar power doubling every year.
Based on the above, it’s clear that solar energy is a rapidly growing sector and will continue gaining momentum, as more and more people seek clean energy sources that help to reduce their carbon footprint. In the coming years, we can expect to see more solar farms, bigger and more powerful installations that generate more energy, and, hopefully, cheaper, more affordable solar power solutions for homes and businesses.