Renewable energy sources have been increasing in popularity for several years. There are many benefits to making the switch from coal and fossil fuels to these renewable energy types. With all of these benefits in mind, it’s no surprise that states throughout the U.S. have begun instituting renewable energy use standards designed to increase the use of renewables within the next few decades. Many have committed to at least 50% renewable energy use by 2030, a goal that some scientists and politicians feel may be difficult to accomplish. Hawaii and California are the two states with the highest standards, each committing to using 100% renewable energy by 2045. Here’s how they’re both progressing on those goals and how renewable energy can make a serious impact on the environment.
Hawaii’s Renewable Energy Standards
Hawaii was the first state to legislate that 100% of its energy come from renewable resources by 2045. The state is focusing primarily on geothermal power but is committed to a diverse portfolio that includes solar, wind, hydro, and bioenergy sources. Hawaii’s high energy costs, which stem largely from its isolated grid, make it more important than ever for the state to develop renewable energy resources. In 2017, Hawaii was receiving 27.6% of its energy from renewable resources, which is more than 12% ahead of its 2015 target of using 15% renewable energy. Scientists and engineers have collected extensive data on Hawaii’s energy usage, goals, and more, providing the one of the first comprehensive resources to help other states reach high renewable energy goals.
California’s Renewable Energy Standards
California announced that it would go 100% renewable by 2045 in August 2018. The new law requires that all retail electricity consumed in the state come from solar, wind, geothermal, or hydroelectric plants within that time frame. Utilities are required to reach 60% by 2030. The state faces some significant barriers to reaching this goal, as the state’s agricultural industry uses a large amount of energy. In addition, its grid is not suited to maintaining and providing renewable energy. As of 2017, however, California was getting 32% of its energy from renewable resources, giving hope that the state is well on its way to reaching its total renewable goals.
Implications for Other States
States across the country are eagerly watching Hawaii and California as models for their own regulations. Many are concerned that creating new, renewable-focused infrastructures will be prohibitively expensive, and that old systems will overload and cause brownouts. Storing renewable energy is also a problem that has yet to be efficiently solved. Because of these concerns, many have chosen to pursue modest energy regulations of 15% within the next few years, while several have not issued any renewable energy regulations at all.
Hawaii has developed a number of solutions to these problems. Smart inverters are switches that can automatically respond to potential overloads, which combats the effects of excess energy on particularly sunny or windy days. Rooftop solar panels can also be a helpful tool in developing stable grids. Hawaii is also working on effective storage methods. As Hawaii and California begin to solve critical problems with transitioning to renewable energy, other states will be more confidently able to follow suit.
Benefits of Renewable Energy
There are several significant benefits to using renewable energy that people argue make it worth the time and money necessary to make the switch. First, using renewable energy can reduce the effects of climate change. Fossil fuels emit harmful gases, while most renewable energy sources emit little to no harmful substances. Reducing emissions is a critical step towards slowing climate change, which has already caused deadly storms, fires, and other natural disasters.
Renewable energy also improves the health of people and animals. Air and water pollution related to coal and natural gas plants can cause breathing problems, neurological damage, heart attacks, cancer, and death. Renewable energy, however, is largely without major pollutants. Geothermal and biomass systems do emit some air pollutants, but their total emissions are negligible compared to fossil fuels. Making the switch to renewable energy can cut down on pollution enough to maintain and sometimes reverse the harmful effects of previous contamination.
One of the best benefits of renewable energy is that it will never run out. Scientists have long warned that we may be using coal, natural gas, and oil more quickly than previously thought, opening the world up to the possibility that it may soon be without its primary source of energy. Renewable energy, meanwhile, can be used as long as there is infrastructure to support it. The wind, sun, and heat from the earth are not going away anytime soon. Solving the problem of how to store and redistribute energy generated from these sources will make renewables an even more feasible and attractive choice.
Because they are constantly available for free, the price of renewable energy is expected to remain relatively stable for as long as it is used. Costs for developing the plants, grids, and other machinery necessary to use renewable energy are declining, and once they are in place, the price of fuel will no longer fluctuate as it does now.