Albuquerque, NM -- Wind, solar, and other renewable sources now make up just about 10 percent of New Mexico’s and the nation’s energy mix, but transitioning to 100 percent clean energy is both necessary and feasible, experts said today.
“It is desirable and feasible for the US to shift to 100% renewable energy. It can be expected that technological innovations such as clean energy systems will be exported globally,” said Professor Bruce Milne, director of Sustainability Studies Program at the University of New Mexico. “Domestic policies should promote the education and retraining of workers in the fossil sector because of many benefits to be gained: labor security, productivity, worker health, wage growth, inequality reduction, and consumer spending.”
Milne joined community leaders and Environment New Mexico for a presentation of new white paper, We Have the Power: 100 Percent Renewable Energy for a Clean, Thriving America, which lays out the whys, wherefores, and how-tos for transforming the nation’s energy supply entirely to wind, solar, and other non-polluting sources.
The panel discussion came as a new Gallup poll showed Americans are more concerned about climate change today than ever before in the last eight years, and the U.S. mainland finished its warmest winter on record.
“To avoid dangerous global warming, we must transition to renewable energy. Expanding renewable energy creates local jobs that cannot be outsourced, reduces the impact of fossil fuel-induced harm to our environment and health, and safeguards the economy from the volatility of fossil fuel prices,” said Sanders Moore, director with Environment New Mexico, who spoke at the panel. “New Mexico is well-positioned to be a leader in this transition. We are the second sunniest state in the country and the twelve windiest; we can not only power our state with renewable energy, but export it as well.”
According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the United States has the technical potential to meet its current electricity needs more than 100 times over with solar energy and more than 10 times over with wind energy. New Mexico has the potential to meet current electricity needs more than 1,400 times over with solar energy.
A review of seven detailed studies on clean energy systems conducted to date -- by academics, government agencies and nonprofit organizations – suggests there are no insurmountable technological or economic barriers to tapping the country’s vast potential to achieve 100 percent renewable energy.
"Clean renewable energy is now so well developed and so inexpensive that we can convert the US to 100% clean energy for about the same cost as the Iraq and Afghan wars,” said Tom Solomon, engineer and co-coordinator of 350.org. “The fuel savings from not buying fossil fuels will pay for the investment, and the benefits will include a safe climate for our children and healthier air and water. But we have to act now."
Economists predict that we can build a 100 percent renewable energy system at costs comparable to or less than what we would have to spend to continue our reliance on dirty energy.
"The boom and bust fossil fuel-based economy has New Mexican families at its mercy. As a state and a community we have to plan ahead,” said Camilla Feibelman, director of Sierra Club – Rio Grande Chapter. “We need workers trained in renewable energy manufacture, installation and maintenance. We need our lawmakers pursuing a renewable economy where we are building the solar panels and the wind turbines here. If we don't start to build the transition now, we have only ourselves to blame."
In Paris in December 2015, the nations of the world made a historic commitment to protect our climate, pledging efforts “to limit [global] temperature increase to 1.5° C above pre-industrial levels.” Advocates said increasing renewable energy development was an important step toward transitioning to 100 percent clean energy and fulfilling the Paris climate agreement.
"Leading up to Paris and beyond faith communities and individuals have been signing the Paris Pledge which calls for energy efficiency and renewable energy use of 50% by 2030 and 100% by 2050,” stated Joan Brown,osf, executive director of New Mexico Interfaith Power and Light. “As Pope Francis wrote in the encyclical Laudato Si, we must take care of our common home."
“By setting a course for 100 percent renewable energy, America can begin to reap benefits for our climate, our environment, our health and our economy that will last for generations,” said Moore.