Google has invested more than $1.8 billion in renewable solar and wind energy projects.

Photo by Pablo Blazquez Dominguez/Getty Images

What's Next for Clean Energy?

The Paris climate accord and the U.S. Clean Power Plan may have been scrapped, but clean energy remains (very much) part of the American energy market.

In June 2017, President Trump announced the United States was withdrawing from the Paris Climate Accord, a landmark agreement aiming to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions.

“The United States will withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord, but begin negotiations to reenter the Paris Accord — or an entirely new transaction — on terms that are fair for the United States,” President Trump said.

In March of that same year, the president also issued an executive order to undo the Clean Power Plan, which tightly regulated power plants burning fossil fuels in an effort to reduce U.S. carbon emissions.

“My administration is putting an end to the war on coal,” said President Trump during the signing.

But for more than a decade, natural gas and clean energy sources, including wind and solar, have become increasingly affordable and reliable. The Paris agreement and the Clean Power Plan may have been scrapped, but clean energy remains (very much) part of the American energy market.

The Power of Market Forces

Cost and reliability are key factors in the maturation of the clean energy market. According to Bloomberg News, global solar prices have dropped 62 percent. Early adopters are increasingly storing solar and wind energy on lithium-ion batteries for around the clock use. And clean energy is ideologically popular. Two-thirds of Americans, the PEW Research Center says, believe in developing clean energy sources over fossil fuels.  

Utilities and American corporations have also made big capital investments in clean energy. They’re not going to turn back.

“Utilities look for a diverse energy mix that includes clean energy. It’s smart economics not to put all your eggs in one basket,” says Dan McCready, co-founder and managing partner of Double Time Capital, an investment firm that makes direct investments in solar and clean American energy.

He adds, “Companies are increasingly starting to focus on their carbon footprints. Google, Apple, GM, and many other forward-looking companies have made significant investments in clean energy.” 


Bloomberg Clean Energy Investment End of Year 2016 Report 

A Big Test for Big Batteries, The New York Times

MIT Energy Initiative Report Provides Guidance for Evolving Electric Power Sector, MIT News

State Initiatives

It’s well known California leads the way in reducing carbon emissions. As noted in the state’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions report, since 2001, California’s carbon intensity (the amount of carbon pollution per million dollars of GDP) has declined 28 percent, while its overall GDP has increased 28 percent.

But the Golden State has allies. Elected officials from Washington and Oregon issued a joint letter urging other states and businesses to continue prioritizing clean energy solutions regardless of the executive order.

“We speak as a region of over 50 million people with a combined GDP of $2.8 trillion,” they wrote. “There is no question that to act on climate is to act in our best economic interests. Through expanded climate policies, we have grown jobs and expanded our economies while cleaning our air.”

In less than 15 years, California decreased its carbon intensity by 28 percent. Courtesy of the California Environmental Protection Agency

So what about coal?

In case you’re curious, here’s a chart showing the change in coal production and consumption with, and without, the Clean Power Plan. According to U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates, repealing the plan will bring coal production back up to 2015 levels before it continues to decline once again.

Coal will receive a short-term boost with the undoing of the Clean Power Plan. Courtesy of the U.S. Energy Information Administration

Hallie Steiner is a writer and social media manager from Los Angeles. She has written for Buzzworthy and trends consultancy The Innovation Group. Contact her at [email protected]