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Seizing America’s Renewable Energy Future

Posted by Sara Gutterman

Feb 8, 2018 11:46:10 AM

At Green Builder Media’s recent Sustainability Symposium 2018, Governor Martin O’Malley outlined a plan to take our great nation to 100% renewable energy by 2050, and discusses our moral imperative for doing so.

Governor Martin O’Malley cares deeply about progress, peace, and sustainability—and has the track record to prove it.  As Mayor of Baltimore, he effectuated a dramatic reduction in crime in what was then the most violent city in America.  As Governor of Maryland, his policies reversed a 350-year decline in the health of the waters of the Chesapeake Bay. 

At Green Builder Media’s recent Sustainability Symposium 2018: Champions of Change, O’Malley delivered an impassioned, articulate, and well thought out plan for taking our country to 100% renewable energy by 2050.

O’Malley began his presentation on an optimistic note with a powerful statistic: according to Gallop, for the first time, a majority of Americans in every age cohort now believe that climate change is caused by human activity, and among Americans under the age of 30, 85% believe that climate change is caused by human behavior.

“Understanding precedes action,” O’Malley avows.  “If you want to know where a nation is headed, talk to her young men and women under 30—you won’t find many climate change deniers among them.  In fact, the vast majority believe we should be doing more, not less.”

“Climate change is the greatest business opportunity to come to the United States in a hundred years,” O’Malley continues.  “Seizing this opportunity requires intention and follow-through.  It requires both a larger consensus, and a new way of leadership.  Everything we love is at stake.”

O’Malley has faith in Americans and recognizes that climate action is and will continue to advance at a local, city and state level, and that a new narrative is emerging as energy technologies and global energy markets evolve.  “By 2030,” O’Malley affirms, “renewable energy—led by solar, wind, and hydro—will be the world’s primary power source.  Smart money and smart people will invest where the future is going.”

O’Malley poses two main questions about this shifting landscape: “First, can we make the technical transition to 100% renewable energy happen quickly enough to avoid planetary climate disaster, with all of the human suffering that comes with it?  And second, can America seize the opportunities of this transition for all of the job creation, health, and security benefits possible?  The first question is a challenge of technology and engineering. The second is a challenge of politics and governing.”

He vehemently believes that the answer to both questions is a resounding yes.  We certainly have the ability and technology.  But he questions how long it will take to develop the political will to adopt new energy policies.

Fortunately, O’Malley asserts, “the global clean energy revolution is unstoppable.  Renewable energy is now cheaper than old coal and nuclear plants.”  That’s because the price of solar has been reduced by 80% in the last ten years and battery prices have decreased by 50% since 2014.  The cost of wind-power has dropped in by 65% since 2009 and is expected to decrease another 50% by 2030, making wind competitive with natural gas almost everywhere in America—even without subsidies.

O’Malley astutely points out that the bridge-fuel to a zero emissions future is not natural gas, but rather, clean technology, green building, and battery innovation.  “With the development of super-fast charging technology for batteries, cars and homes themselves will become a big part of the distributed storage solution for our renewable energy future,” says O’Malley.

O’Malley has a strategy for replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy as soon as 2030, leveraging the massive off-shore wind capacity along the east and west coasts, on-shore wind capacity on the central plans, and solar capacity along the south and southwest.  In this plan, decentralized and distributed solar production yields approximately 54% of our domestic power by 2050. 

To achieve our goals, O’Malley reminds us of the major policy changes that are required to compliment advancing technology.  “Can we forge the political will and the governing capacity to seize this better future?” he asks.

He calls for the realignment of utility profit incentive away from energy consumption and towards the maintenance of a secure, reliable, and dynamic grid; the shifting of subsidies and incentives from fossil fuels to renewables; and more investment in renewable energy technology research and development.

Fortunately, he points out, red and blue states are aggressively adopting policies that will, collectively, help the U.S. meet our climate goals.  19 states have adopted greenhouse gas reduction targets; 26 states have mandatory renewable energy portfolio standards; and 41 states have net-metering policies.

O’Malley emphasizes how important the 2018 election cycle will be, since the leaders that we elect this year will have a substantial impact on the evolution of renewable energy policy. 

He also looks forward to the next Presidential election, when he predicts that candidates will campaign on the opportunity of climate change, naming a full transition to clean energy as the top economic and national security priority for our Federal government.

He believes that a new, collaborative style of leadership is unfolding, one that will replace the centralized, top-down model that has been pervasive in our culture for far too long.  This entrepreneurial leadership paradigm “requires a radical commitment to openness and transparency demonstrated every day through actions, not words.”

“Collaboration is the new competition,” O’Malley declares.  “There are solutions, there is broad and growing public support, market and technology trends are favorable, the energy transition is happening.”

It’s refreshing to hear from an elected official who is so optimistic about the future and full of ideas for affecting positive change that is good for our entire nation and leaves no one behind.

Click here to watch Governor Martin O’Malley’s presentation, including how he proposes to transition our country to 100% renewable energy, at Green Builder Media’s Sustainability Symposium 2018: Champions of Change, generously sponsored by Ingersoll Rand, Emerson, Bosch, Panasonic, Uponor, Samsung, Siemens, and OUC.

How do you think we can transition to a 100% renewable energy future? Write to me at sara.gutterman@greenbuildermedia.com.

Want to read more?  Follow me on Twitter and Facebook.  For more information about green building and sustainable living, visit Green Builder Media at www.greenbuildermedia.com, like us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter for regular updates and breaking news.

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