When Bioneers first released 100% Renewables: Late and Fast in 2014, as part of our annual radio series Bioneers: Revolution from the Heart of Nature, renewable energy was already on the rise. But in the two short years since the show aired, a lot has changed in the energy space. At the 2016 Bioneers Conference, Danny Kennedy shared some updates on the inexorable rise of clean power — a rise that is happening faster than any of us predicted.
For starters, the US now gets 17% of its energy from renewables, and the amount of energy generated globally from renewables has climbed to 30%. Clean energy financing has taken a similarly dramatic upward turn – with banks now flocking to fund renewables. New investment in clean energy topped $287B in 2016. As the global population and its energy needs continue to grow, this exponential increase in clean power generation and financing are good news for the health of the planet.
This growth has also increased the number of jobs in renewables – most of which cannot be outsourced overseas. The wind and solar industries added almost 100,000 new US jobs just in 2016, increasing by 32% and 25% respectively. The nation also added 133,000 energy efficiency jobs, employing a new total of 2.2 million Americans. Building the new clean energy infrastructure is, as solar entrepreneur Billy Parish promised, “one of the biggest business and job creation opportunities on the planet.”
Improving battery and grid technology is the next hurdle – but as the costs of energy storage plummet, the promise of a distributed clean energy future remains strong. The question now is, will the U.S. act quickly enough to make a difference on climate change – and to enjoy some of the immediate economic benefits of leading the clean energy revolution?