During Tesla’s annual shareholder meeting and Battery Day event, CEO Elon Musk said something that should have dominated headlines: “The US is moving toward sustainable energy.” While on this topic of sustainable energy, Elon Musk noted that eventually everything we do will be done with sustainable energy. In Tesla’s case, it is contributing to this with electric vehicles (EVs), solar power for homes and businesses, energy storage for homes and businesses, potentially greener mining, and probably home HVAC systems eventually.
The fact that we are moving forward with clean, renewable energy in the face of the Trump administration, which has sought to destroy all the hard work the previous administrations (not just Obama’s, but several others as well) have done in regards to our environment is almost miraculous, but it shows how competitive wind and solar power have become. Before getting to renewable energy’s growth, let me briefly back up that previous statement. There are many instances which show how our current president is harming our planet, such as:
- EPA Allows Sewage Into Our Rivers
- Restricting EPA Science
- Took Away State & Tribal Rights To Protect Land
- Weakened Environmental Laws
- Push For Oil Drilling In National Forests
- Ignoring Oil Workers Safety Because It’s Not Profitable
The full list is much longer. In light of the dark shadow this administration has cast upon our planet, there is at least the hope that renewables are on the rise.
CleanTechnica‘s latest US energy generation report, published yesterday, shows that electricity generation from renewables in the first 7 months of the year grew from 19% of electricity generation in 2018 and 2019 to 21% in 2020.
Additionally, in the first half of the year, more than half of new power capacity in the country came from renewable energy sources — 27.3% of new power capacity came from solar power and 29.4% came from wind power.
Furthermore, just last week, there was a report showing that 47 US states could meet all of their electricity needs using in-state renewables. The report, by Maria McCoy and John Farrell, shows that if all of the states were to take “full advantage” of their renewable resources, in-state renewable generation would even be more than enough to charge electric vehicles and power electric heating.
More evidence supporting Elon Musk’s statement comes from Texas, the state that is, ironically, America’s top oil producer. While this oily state is well known for its economy rich in “black gold,” Texas is also the fourth state in installed solar power capacity in the United States. It is also the number one state in the country for installed wind power capacity. Texas’s power capacity was 30% carbon-free by the end of 2018, with 23.4% of that coming from wind power. Enter Tesla Giga Texas, which when fully online will bring Tesla’s cleantech manufacturing and innovation (and many jobs) to Texas.
Demise Of Coal & Hope In Clean Energy
Despite Donald Trump claiming that he was going to save the US coal industry, it has been dying a quick death under his administration. As CleanTechnica Director Zach Shahan reported yesterday, electricity from coal has dropped from 26.9% to 17.7% in the past few years.
The credit isn’t due to Trump, though — it’s the market doing what it’s been doing for much longer, pushing coal out. CleanTechnica readers knew Donald Trump’s claims that he’d “save” the coal industry were a lie when he made them on the campaign trail. The downward trend for coal was unstoppable. Coal had dropped from 50% in 2005 to 45% in 2010 to 33% in 2015 before the continued drop to 18% in 2020.
Jimmy Simpkins, who worked as a coal miner for 29 years, told The Guardian, “Coal is over. Forget coal. It can never be back to what it was in our heyday. It can’t happen. That coal is not there to mine.” The article noted that many are pinning their hopes on clean energy and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal.
Carl Shoupe, a retired coal miner who had worked as a union organizer for 14 years, noted that people needed to move away from depending entirely on the coal industry as an economic resource for the region. “What we’ve been doing is trying to transition into the 21st century and get on past coal,” said Shoupe.
Renewables > Coal
Back in May, the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) reported that US renewable energy consumption surpassed coal for the first time in over 130 years. The timeframe was a range between 1776 and 2019. “This outcome mainly reflects the continued decline in the amount of coal used for electricity generation over the past decade as well as growth in renewable energy, mostly from wind and solar,” noted the EIA.
While solar has been rising fastest in recent years, most renewable electricity in the US comes from wind and hydroelectric power, as you could see in the charts above.
Elon Musk was 100% correct when he made the statement that the US is moving toward sustainable energy. America is moving in the direction of sustainability, and we are doing this despite the challenges this administration keeps throwing at us.
For more on how Tesla is contributing to this portion of the sustainable energy revolution, check out “Elon Musk Explains Why Tesla Solar Power Is So Cheap — CleanTechnica Exclusive.”