Solar Delivers New Climate Optimism This Earth Day
Thursday, Apr 20 2023
Earth Week 2023 feels different.
For years, Earth Day has been a day of both advocacy and protest, and a reminder of the monumental climate and broader environmental challenges ahead. This year, for the first time ever, Americans are celebrating Earth Day with a comprehensive clean energy plan in place. The U.S. solar and storage industry is growing, and America’s ambitious clean energy goals are finally within reach.
The electric power sector still accounts for about one-third of all greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. Every day, fossil fuel plants spew emissions and American communities, particularly Black and Brown communities, continue to suffer from the dangerous health impacts of pollution and the natural disasters accelerated by the climate crisis.
But things are changing.
Carbon-free solar energy is now the fastest-growing power source in America. Last year, half of all new electric capacity came from solar and a record 700,000 homeowners installed solar on their rooftops. More than 255,000 Americans work in the solar and storage industry today and there are over 10,000 businesses that are helping consumers cut their energy bills and emissions with solar power.
The United States is now home to more than 142 gigawatts of installed solar capacity, which is enough clean energy to displace 161 million metric tons of carbon emissions annually. That’s equivalent to taking 35 million vehicles off the road, saving 18 billion gallons of gas and planting 2.7 billion trees every single year.
This is only the beginning.
The passage of the Inflation Reduction Act has catalyzed a wave of new investments in solar manufacturing and deployment. Wood Mackenzie now projects that by 2032 the total base of installed solar will be five times larger than it is today and solar will offset 492 million metric tons of CO2 annually.
The value of accelerating the clean energy transition goes far beyond carbon. Stronger domestic solar production will continue to reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil. This transition will improve U.S. energy security and help insulate working families from the volatile price shifts of global oil markets.
A solar-powered future also means less pollution in the air, the water and our bodies.
An Energy Innovation study shows that the clean energy initiatives in the Inflation Reduction Act will drastically reduce fossil fuel pollution, avoiding up to 3,900 premature deaths and up to 100,000 asthma attacks every year by 2030.
The health benefits of a pollution-free electric sector cannot be overstated — especially for communities of color that are disproportionately located near fossil fuel power plants. Mercury, lead, sulfur dioxide and other particulate matter emitted by these plants have been linked to heart attacks, respiratory disorders, stroke, and other physical and mental health complications. The faster America transitions away from these dirty fuels and towards clean energy, the healthier it will be. While this progress is promising, clean energy deployment is crucial and, unfortunately, not guaranteed.
Solar companies are relying on a stable, predictable business environment to reach America’s clean energy goals, but right now, a group of lawmakers are attempting to undo the Biden Administration’s two-year pause on new solar tariffs. The move would subject solar companies to over $1 billion in retroactive duties, eliminate 30,000 jobs and increase CO2 emission by 24 million metric tons.
These retroactive tariffs would be a massive blow to the solar and storage industry’s momentum and introduce yet another barrier to reaching America’s climate goals. Join SEIA in this fight by sending a message to your representatives urging them to oppose this measure. With the clean energy future finally coming into focus, now is not the time to undercut the companies and people on the ground delivering this future.
Despite these headwinds, there’s a lot to celebrate this Earth Day.
Over the last year, America has made incredible progress on clean energy with help from champions on the Hill and in state capitals. Solar is sprouting up on rooftops and farms across the country and new manufacturing facilities are now in the works.
America’s solar and storage industry is growing, and with the right market signals in place, this industry is ready to deliver a 100% clean energy economy that science and the climate demand.