The differences between fossil fuels and renewable energy aren’t only about saving money and saving the planet. Because renewables don’t depend on mining or importing massive quantities of oil, gas or coal that are only found in specific regions of the country and the world, and because they don’t require huge power plants to generate electricity, they represent an entirely different, decentralized paradigm of energy use. This new paradigm has the potential to enhance the resilience of local communities through both economic and energy security.
More Resilient Electricity Supplies
The term “distributed generation” (DG) refers to any kind of electricity that is generated at the point of consumption – e.g., at homes or businesses. By reducing dependence on centralized power systems, DG can provide a number of system-wide benefits including lower demand peaks, reduced grid congestion, and less need for new investments in new transmission and distribution infrastructure. Most dramatically, it can also provide backup power if the grid goes down – as was the case during Superstorm Sandy in 2012, which left over one million ConEd customers in New York City without power for a week or more and led the state to subsequently undertake a massive effort to increase DG adoption.
While there are a variety of forms of distributed generation, including natural gas microturbines and combined heat and power (CHP) systems, solar PV generation has the greatest potential for widespread deployment since it is small-scale, modular, and can be installed on most rooftops. Solar PV systems with “islanding” capabilities (meaning they can operate independently of the grid) can ensure that households and businesses have an uninterrupted supply of energy if the grid is taken down by natural disasters, cyberattacks, or other emergency situations. Pairing home solar PV with battery storage can further enhance resilience for households and communities by ensuring steady power supplies even when the sun isn’t shining.
Reducing Oil Dependence
When Americans think about energy and economic security, we tend to think primarily about our dependence on imported oil. Despite a fall in oil prices and rising domestic production, we still import nearly half of the oil we consume from foreign countries, leaving us vulnerable to supply disruptions. And history has shown that it hardly matters where we’re getting our oil from, as we have been forced into repeated military entanglements and foreign policy dilemmas in the oil-rich Middle East simply because of its central role in the global oil market.
Dramatic price swings in oil markets have also been the cause of repeated economic recessions over the past century – a threat which persists whether prices are too high or too low. Even during periods of relative calm in oil markets, oil dependence hurts the U.S. economy due to the transfer of wealth to OPEC countries, loss of GDP due to temporary price shocks, and loss of potential GDP due to high oil prices. According to the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, this amounts to hundreds of billions of dollars of lost economic output every year.
Domestically-produced renewable energy supplies can reduce, and ultimately eliminate, this dependence in a variety of ways. Existing gasoline and diesel-fueled vehicles are increasingly fueling with biofuels like ethanol and biodiesel, which are produced from domestically-grown corn and soybeans. However, biofuels only make up about 5% of U.S. transportation energy use, and are currently limited to blends with petroleum fuels of just 10% ethanol or 20% biodiesel. Moreover, the widespread use of these fuels can have environmental drawbacks from increasing consumption of water, fertilizers, and pesticides from intensive industrial agriculture.
A more potent – and environmentally beneficial – solution will be the transition to electric vehicles (EVs) fueled by domestic renewable electricity resources. Tesla is already seeking to do this by building “Supercharger” charging stations powered solely by solar panels, and a number of other companies are similarly developing parking lots that has roofs covered with solar panels. And of course, since many bright green types are interested owning EVs as well as going solar, a growing number of homeowners are switching from fueling on imported oil to charging up on their own solar power!
Supporting Local Jobs
Because renewable energy can be produced domestically and in virtually every part of the country, it has huge potential to drive local job growth for decades to come. In fact, this “potential” is already happening: solar power employs over 200,000 Americans, wind power directly employs 88,000 Americans, and both industries count workers in all 50 states. These jobs are growing fast, too - in January 2016, new projections from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicated that wind turbine technician will be the fastest-growing job in America over the next 10 years!
Mosaic Empowers You and Your Community
From day one, Mosaic’s mission has been to catalyze a “power shift” away from big companies burning dirty fossil fuels and towards empowering communities with clean energy. Today, we’re enabling this shift by connecting homeowners to local solar installers and providing the financing needed to make going solar easy. Click here to get a free quote and find out how easy it can be to own your part of a cleaner, cheaper, and more resilient clean energy future.