Why Renewable Energy Will Win Out Over Coal and Oil

Last Updated:
Fri, 2014-08-01 10:15

Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, coal and oil dominated the energy landscape in America. Unfortunately for us, fossil fuels are finite resources that come with a laundry list of nasty consequences when we extract them from the Earth and burn them. It would seem that for these reasons alone, the shift to renewable energy sources would be welcome. However, with such a long history, the infrastructure that supports coal and oil resources is tightly wound into the fabric of our economy. It will take powerful economic forces to drive the shift to renewable energy sources.

Thankfully, those forces are already at play. Here are the top three economic factors facilitating renewables' win over fossil fuels:

Expanding Market Growth and Investment

The Worldwatch Institute reported that renewable energy growth is booming. The U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates that over the next three years, renewable energy will grow to comprise 33 percent of new electricity generation in the U.S. Energy deregulation in many states helped facilitate the growth of the renewable energy industry. Many electric suppliers offer green energy plans to their customers, furthering investment in new renewable energy projects.

Falling Prices

Renewable energy installations for individual households are also becoming more affordable and accessible. As more energy consumers choose to take a green approach to powering their homes, prices fall even more. A recent report from The Guardian suggests that solar has already won over fossil fuels in Australia. Thanks to a burgeoning rooftop solar movement and negative pricing practices, the article suggests that even if coal were free, it still couldn't compete with solar power. "Free coal," in this case, comes with a caveat. Delivery charges and taxes on the transmission and distribution of the coal-generated electricity don't go away. For consumers, it would still be more expensive than the solar power that consumers can generate themselves.

Opportunities for Job Growth

Forecasts for the impact of the renewable energy industry on the labor force are hopeful. One estimate predicts that wind power growth could create 1.4 million new jobs by 2020. A 2011 report from The Solar Foundation showed that job growth in the solar industry was at 6.8 percent – almost 10 times faster than the overall economy.

In a still sluggish U.S. economy, renewable energy is poised to be a powerful driver for recovery. It offers opportunities for new growth and investment, job creation, and an affordable, domestic energy source.