Has the “traditional vs. renewable” energy argument ended?

June 30, 2017

Power towers as part of the energy infrastructure that delivers electricityNot long ago, renewable energy development and the use of traditional fossil fuels were considered to be polar opposites. This “us vs. them” mentality, however, is no longer an accurate reflection of the energy infrastructure landscape, according to an opinion piece published in The Hill. Tom Werner, President and CEO of SunPower, maintains that over the past few years, solar technology has become America’s fastest growing, nonpartisan energy source.

From the article

Just a few years ago, many of us engaged in the development of solar and other renewables couldn’t have predicted the growth we’ve all experienced. I think it’s also fair to say that the traditional fossil fuel industry, like a prototypical big brother, viewed solar as squarely secondary.

Werner says that paradigm no longer holds true. According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), an estimated 9.5 gigawatts of utility-scale solar power was added to the U.S. energy grid in 2016 (surpassing totals from the previous three years combined). The article also cites a 70% decrease in the average price of solar between 2009 and 2015. Werner believes this is evidence that both the marketplace and solar technology have come of age.

But the future of solar power is only one part of the overall energy argument. Werner believes the most successful companies over the coming decade will invest in integrated power business models that go beyond a single, stand-alone solar policy.

Also from the article:

The energy infrastructure of tomorrow won’t rely on one exclusive source—it’s simply not possible. All of our considerable resources, whether from the ground, ocean or sky, must be available to consumers as a matter of choice and free-market competition.

Werner says this free-market approach will help drive down prices, create jobs and offer multiple energy options. As the renewable energy industry matures, he says it is time to end the conventional-versus-renewable debate with regard to energy planning. By focusing on the practical rather than the ideological, Werner believes all sides can—and should—be part of the conversations that will ultimately benefit everyone.


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