Reflecting on “The Irreversible Momentum of Clean Energy”

January 31, 2017 Jeff Perlman Economy, energy, politics 0 Comments

Just before leaving office, President Obama wrote in Science magazine, about the “irreversible momentum of clean energy.” Just look at the employment trends: “~2.2 million Americans… currently employed in the design, installation, and manufacture of energy-efficiency products and services… [compared] with the roughly 1.1 million Americans who are employed in the production of fossil fuels and their use for electric power generation.” We’ve seen evidence of this ourselves at Bright Power, where our staff has more than doubled in size since the last election and in 2016 alone our revenue grew over 70% — not a lot of conventional energy companies can say that. Insofar as the 2016 election was a referendum on jobs, President Trump should want to support the largest areas of employment in the energy sector (hint: they’re not coal mines).  And equipment costs for renewables and energy efficiency, especially for solar energy and LED lighting, have been on a steady downward trajectory, which means that they are increasingly less dependent upon government subsidy.

All of this is good news for the real estate industry. We have a growing set of tools we can use to deliver more value to you, across your portfolio. Finding opportunities to lower energy usage and costs, fixing buildings to make them more comfortable and more efficient, and following them on an ongoing basis to reduce headaches for you and your maintenance staffs…all of this continues to work for you, no matter who is in office.

While the Clean Power Plan (CPP) itself now seems doomed, the electricity sector has already nearly achieved the 2030 carbon goal today (we’re at 27% carbon savings and the 2030 goal is 32%). So as long as we don’t start forbidding the use of renewables in favor of coal (really, Wyoming?), we should far surpass the CPP goals even without the CPP.  And while the recent executive orders in support of oil pipelines mean that they will likely get built at some point in the future, it is a small enough amount of oil and far enough in the future that it’s not likely to have a major impact on prices.

Plus, energy policy has always been made primarily at the state level anyway. Rather than anything resembling unity across the states, support for renewable energy and energy efficiency is likely to become even more of a patchwork with even deeper contrasts – defined state-by-state, municipality-by-municipality.  It is more than a full-time job keeping up with the constant policy and program changes, but there’s gold there if you do.  Just ask the dozens of properties in California that we’ve helped access funds to pay for 80+% of our energy and water improvements.

Furthermore, despite all of the attempts to confuse the public on the issue, even after November’s election, more than two-thirds of Americans support action on climate change.  This means that  the President needs only to listen to the people on this one.  But even if he doesn’t, we’ll keep moving forward either way.

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