The Age of Fossil Fuels is over.
The signs are everywhere.
A recent report by Stanford economist Frank Wolak predicts that the global oil prices will stay low for the next 2 decades. He ascribes this price intransigence to increased energy production in North America, better technologies and the declining market power of the OPEC countries.
And there’s more to the story.
Climate change is spurring nations and states around the globe to adopt aggressive mandatory renewable energy goals. To date, more than 67 countries currently have renewable energy policy targets.
Sweden currently leads the EU with 51% of its energy coming from renewables. Norway, Alaska’s bellwether, meets 98% of its energy needs with hydroelectric, geothermal and wind. China, India, and even Saudi Arabia see the writing on the wall and are all setting rigorous renewable energy goals.
In the US, California, our largest energy market, recently pledged to meet 50% of its energy needs from renewables by 2030. Our sister state, Hawaii has adopted an even more ambitious 70% by 2030 clean energy goal with 30% from efficiency and 40% from locally generated renewables.
Some renewable energy watchers predict that 100% renewable energy will be the new normal.
While still a small percent of the global market, renewable energy markets are exploding. According to the International Energy Agency’s Medium-Term Renewable Energy Market Report for 2014:
“In 2013, renewable power capacity expanded at its fastest pace to date. Renewable power generation continued to grow strongly, reaching almost 22% of the global mix, compared with 21% in 2012 and 18% in 2007. Globally, renewable electricity generation is now on par with that of natural gas, which remained relatively stable in 2013. Investment in new renewable power capacity topped USD 250 billion globally in 2013 and is likely to remain at high levels.”
According to Bloomberg, even with a 14% drop in investments (to US $214.4 billion), renewables accounted for 44% of 2013’s newly installed generating capacity
Alaska would be wise to abandon its dirty energy past and move swiftly and smartly into the clean energy future.
And that’s the good news.
We have abundant and diverse renewable energy resources that could power our rail belt cities, southeast and meet 100% of electricity needs of every rural community.
The question, you ask next is, “who will pay for this great transition”?
We know from the Trans Alaska Pipeline that massive public/private spending is good for the economy, a fact confirmed by expert economists.
Alaskans long for the good old days of the TAPS boom. Governor Walker’s current proposal to invest $65 billion in public funds to build a natural gas line/LNG export plant is just the latest in a long string of proposed paths to energy independence while pumping up revenue generating fossil fuel exports.
We are on the right track but headed in the wrong direction.
It’s time for Alaska to invest in a new vision; one that builds true, fuel-free energy independence, energy security and community resiliency for all Alaskans as we head into an uncertain climate future.
We can do this by adopting a mandatory 100% Renewable Energy goal by 2025 in place of our non-binding 50% goal.
Instead of gambling our $65 billion future on failing and fading old energy markets let’s invest in a vast new distributed wind, geothermal, small hydro, wave and solar powered future, retrofit every home and business, build new net-zero buildings, expand an electrified rail system to serve commuters and rural Alaskans alike, construct rural microgrids for every energy and climate stressed community and expand food and basic industries to meet more of Alaska’s needs locally.
A swift transition will create an abundance of jobs, diversify and grow our economy and ensure a renewable future for all Alaskans.