Future of solar after the Paris Accord

By Drs. Robert & Sonia Vogl 

When President Trump announced he was pulling the U.S. out of the Paris Accord it stimulated our nation’s climate change interests. States, cities, corporations and other groups expressed their determination to continue efforts to reduce fossil fuel consumption, secure renewable energy sources and embrace a transition to electric vehicles.

The reaction includes an effort known as America’s Pledge, backed by Bloomberg Philanthropies. The intent behind the pledge is to meet our goal, abandoned by the Trump Administration, to reduce our carbon pollution to at least 26 percent below 2005-levels by 2025.

We repeat the point, made in an earlier column, that we are well on our way to reaching the 2030 reduction goal as a reminder of the progress already made and to offset any sense of despair from the direction in which the current administration is headed.

America’s Pledge is also intended to send a message to the international community that the effort to reduce the adverse impacts of climate change will continue within our country.

In a thought-provoking article, The Petro-Powers vs. the Greens: Is Trump launching a New World Order for Energy?, Michael Klare offers us a future energy scenario. In the U.S., Trump’s actions undermine renewable energy sources and promote fossil fuel consumption.  Globally, he appears to be seeking an alliance between the United States, Russia, Saudi Arabia and other fossil fuel producing interests which would challenge the world’s embrace of renewable energy.

Undoing global support of renewable energy would be an economic challenge if the 2017 Bloomberg New Energy Finance’s future projections are fulfilled. For example, by 2023 solar and onshore wind are envisioned as being cost competitive with new U.S gas plants – and by 2028 solar will cost less than existing gas generation.

With electric battery costs dropping to $100/kWh by 2020, production costs for EVs could soon be at parity with similar fossil fuel powered vehicles.

While global trends will continue to influence renewable energy prospects, a recent compromise was reached in Illinois which will keep existing nuclear power plants open and support the development of renewable energy and efficiency. The compromise involves an increase in the price of electricity for customers: two new charges, one to keep the nukes open and the other to support renewable energy, are nearly equal in their impact on consumer’s wallets.

While increasing the cost of energy is seldom a welcome addition to a family’s budget, it does include the benefits of reducing carbon emissions and other pollutants associated with fossil fuel combustion while diminishing adverse impacts on human health. It also provides economic incentives to support investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency. Taking advantage of the incentives will help limit energy cost increases.

• The Annual Renewable Energy and Sustainable Lifestyle Fair is an excellent opportunity to meet people interested in renewable energy and people knowledgeable about and skilled in the clean energy options available in Illinois. This year’s Fair will include presentations on community solar, living off the grid, current developments in batteries, home energy systems, electric transportation, the smart grid, current developments in solar, and the advantages of going solar.

The major sponsor of the Fair is the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation. We appreciate the support of The Rock River Times. R.

Drs. Robert and Sonia Vogl are the President and Vice President of the Illinois Renewable Energy Association.

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