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Special Edition Magazine, Fall 2020: The Green Recovery

English

It’s the Energy Policies, Stupid

If renewable energy sources like wind and solar are now competitive with fossil fuels, what's stopping advanced economies like the United States from quickly shifting to a 100% clean-energy system? The short answer is that politicians are standing in the way of both markets and public opinion.

SANTA BARBARA – For the past decade, clean-energy costs have fallen precipitously. In some places, solar and wind energy can now compete with fossil fuels, even when producers of the latter are not required to pay for the pollution they cause.

But economics is not destiny. Tackling the climate crisis requires that we deploy renewable energy on a vast scale to provide all of our electricity, fuel our cars, and power our buildings. Doing that will take more than just cheap energy; it requires fundamental changes in policy.

Renewable energy currently makes up around 11% of the global electricity supply, a share that grows by around one percentage point each year. Including hydropower and nuclear – which are both carbon-free, but not growing much year on year – the total share of clean electricity is about 37%.

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