We Have the Power, New Study Says, to Reach Net-Zero Emissions

by Amy Lupica, ODP Staff Writer

This week, Environment America released a report documenting the nation’s vast potential for renewable energy. As the federal government makes moves to build massive commercial wind farms and solar power takes hold in the west, the report emphasizes that maintaining and building on that momentum can rocket the U.S. to net-zero emissions. The report, titled We Have the Power, offers a stroke of optimism and notes that with innovation, impactful policy, and a bit of faith, the U.S. can achieve its climate goals.

Why This Matters: The world has nearly exhausted its carbon budget, and the U.S. is literally feeling the heat, staring down the barrel of what experts say may be record-breaking wildfire and hurricane seasons. Permanent drought has taken much of the west and is now moving further east. All the while, glaciers are melting, and sea levels are rising at unprecedented rates. A rapid shift away from fossil fuels is the fastest way to cut humanity’s carbon footprint and stave off catastrophic temperature rise. Still, for decades, the U.S. has been mired in debates over the efficacy of renewable energy. Now there is no doubt; we have the technology, we have the power, but do we have the will?

 

Ramping Up: The stage is set for a rapid transition to renewable energy,” reads the report, emphasizing that the nation has enough sun and wind to power the country many times over.

  • Onshore and offshore wind resources, if harnessed, could produce 40 million GWh of electricity each year, 11 times the nation’s 2020 usage.

Each state has enough renewable resources to power itself at least once over, and 18 states have the solar resources to power themselves 100 times over. What’s more, experts say that the technology to make this happen is readily available. “The technologies required for renewable scenarios are not just tried-and-tested, but also proven at a large scale,” reads one study from Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews.

Environment America’s report offers a roadmap toward rapidly overhauling the nation’s energy infrastructure to reach net-zero emissions by 2050. The guide emphasizes:

  • Rapidly deploying clean energy across the country using tried and true methods. Already, the government has approved commercial-scale offshore wind projects on both coasts, including a floating offshore wind farm in California.  
  • Modernizing the nation’s energy grid. In February, the need for modernization became apparent when a deep freeze in Texas left 14 million residents without power. Experts say that significant, life-threatening blackouts will increase as temperatures rise, making modernization imperative for the nation’s energy future.
  • Reducing and managing demand for energy by increasing smart appliances, green construction, and more.  
  • “Repowering our economy” with renewables by investing in EVs, electrifying freight and manufacturing, and capturing renewable energy in the form of heat.

The research emphasizes that in addition to ensuring the U.S. meets its climate goals, reaching net-zero emissions results in public health benefits for all. “Reliable, 100% renewable electricity is achievable — and, if coupled with electrification of other sectors, provides significant greenhouse gas, air quality, and public health benefits,” said the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

The research offers hope in what can often be a dim conversation about the future of climate and energy. Already, the nation is making significant investments in offshore wind, solar power, and EV infrastructure. The study concludes, “by turning to proven policies and embracing new ideas, America can lead the world toward a future built around clean, renewable energy – not only helping to avert a climate catastrophe, but improving lives, communities, and the natural world in the process.”

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