U.S. President Barrack Obama recently declared war on coal, introducing regulations to reduce carbon emissions from coal production plants by 30% below 2005 levels by 2030. This comes on the heels of Obama’s move last month to promote solar power and energy efficiency in the United States. Combined, these two developments spell great news for solar energy.
According to figures published in the Financial Post, coal-fired power generation accounts for 44% of the electricity generation in the U.S. Coal is one of the biggest sources of air pollution and any measure to curb coal emissions bodes well for the clean energy sector. In the near term, as the share of coal gradually decreases in the U.S. electricity mix, natural gas-fired energy production is expected to make up the difference. However, over the longer term, renewable energy, such as wind and solar, is well-positioned to replace coal altogether. The carbon footprint of renewable energy is minimal and the “fuel” itself is free. Furthermore, as the cost of solar energy production comes down, the transition to solar power is picking up speed.
We’re at a point now where solar panels are becoming an affordable option for the average consumer. As a result of both increased production in China and increased technological efficiency, solar manufacturing costs decreased between 60 and 70 per cent in the last decade. This has translated into a rise in residential installations. According to the Solar Energy Industry Association (SEIA), residential installations in the United States surpassed commercial ones for the first time last quarter. In the same quarter, 74% of new electric generating capacity in the U.S. came from solar – a total of 14.8 GW installed capacity, or enough to power 3 million homes.
Arguably the most famous household in the U.S. that made a transition to solar energy is the White House. According to Sunmetrix Discover, the White House has a pretty decent Solar Score of 49. Along with Obama’s announcement last month to promote solar energy, the White House highlighted the recent installation of solar panels on the first family’s residence, which are now operational (but Obama wasn’t the first US president to go solar: in 1979, Jimmy Carter ordered a solar hot water heating system installed on the White House, which stayed in place for approximately two decades). It’s safe to say that the move to clean energy begins at home!