New investor-backed campaign targets a trillion dollars for US renewables
Clean energy investors want policies to bring green dollars to the red, white and blue.
There may be a trillion-dollar opportunity in U.S. renewable energy.
The “phenomenally abundant” mix of wind, solar and other renewables makes the U.S. one of the most likely places in the world for more investment, according to Gregory Wetstone, president and CEO of the American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE).
The major investors in renewables are ready to up their commitment, Wetstone told Utility Dive. In return, U.S. policymakers must commit to policies like increased mandates for renewables and energy storage that will keep renewables on a level playing field with other generation resources when the federal tax credits now driving growth expire in the early 2020s.
Globally, $5.9 trillion has gone into the renewable energy and energy efficiency sectors since 2007, according to Ethical Markets’ Green Transition Scoreboard. Additional global investment in renewables alone could reach $11.5 trillion through 2050, according to the 2018 Bloomberg New Energy Finance Outlook. The 2017 global investment was $333.5 billion. U.S. investment in 2017 was $57 billion.
This investment has already brought the cost of utility-scale solar down 77%, the cost of wind down 38% and the cost of battery storage down 79% since 2009, a March BNEF study found. Both wind and solar costs dropped 18% in the just first half of 2017, according to the new BNEF Outlook. Battery prices are forecast to fall 67% more by 2030.
“Renewable energy has been the number one source of private sector infrastructure investment in the U.S. for each of the past seven years,” ACORE’s Wetstone said. “It is one of the nation’s most important drivers for new investment and job creation.”
That is why ACORE has introduced a new campaign to get investment in U.S. renewables and related grid infrastructure to a cumulative $1 trillion by 2030. Achieving its goal will take the right policy, and the trillion dollars in potential investment is why red state and blue state policymakers should be thinking green, ACORE’s Wetstone said.
The trillion-dollar campaign
The enormous economic benefits from investment in renewables and grid infrastructure justify the trillion dollar ambition, Wetstone said. ACORE’s April 2018 survey of financial institutions that represent an estimated one-third of U.S. renewables investments revealed strong backing for increased commitments.
Of the surveyed renewables investors, 67% expect to increase their investment by at least 5% in 2018. More than half expect to increase investment by over 10%. Through 2030, 89% of respondents expect to at least double their investments — if there is supportive policy, including expanded mandates for renewables and energy storage.
Despite current headlines that the White House and some in Congress prefer to support coal and nuclear power, the numbers could convince them there is political and economic opportunity in providing support for the sector.
Renewables provide jobs and financial benefits in “many red and blue state rural areas where other sources of economic opportunity can be hard to find,” ACORE’s Wetstone said. According to Labor Department data, “solar installer and wind turbine technician are the nation’s two fastest growing careers.”
Of the top 25 solar generating congressional districts, 13 are represented by Republicans, Wetstone added.
The top five wind-producing states are led by Republicans, according to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) 2017 Market Report. Republican-held congressional districts have 85% of all U.S. wind generation.
Rural areas have 99% of all wind generation, and 81% of them are low income areas, AWEA reported. In 2017, wind projects paid an estimated $267 million in lease payments to landowners in those areas.