Promote Wind and Solar Energy in the United States

August 10, 2015

Altamont Pass Wind Farm in Alameda, California
Bill Christian/Flickr

Wind and solar power have enjoyed enormous growth in the past few years. A decade ago, wind supplied less than 1 percent of U.S. electricity; by 2014, it generated more than 4.5 percent of our country’s power. Prices have plummeted, and renewable power now costs less than coal and natural gas in some regions. Smart incentives and market dynamics have spurred this expansion, bringing reliable power, cleaner air, and job growth to communities across the nation.

NRDC helps shape and secure policies that expand the market for clean energy. By powering millions of homes and businesses, emissions-free renewable energy is reducing the threat of climate change and making the air safer to breathe. Wind farms have become a familiar part of the landscape, and solar panels have spread across rooftops. Yet we have only begun to tap this potential.

We push for the extension of federal incentives that spur clean energy innovation. These help level the playing field between emerging wind technologies and mature resources like coal, oil, and natural gas, which pollute the air when burned. Yet Congress has allowed the incentives to lapse several times. NRDC rallies support for them by demonstrating the enormous economic and environmental benefits of clean energy.

Forty-four states have net-metering, which makes it easier for people to put solar on their rooftops, and twenty-nine states and Washington, D.C. have established renewable energy standards requiring that a certain percentage of their electricity come from wind, solar, and other clean sources. We urge additional states to create similar standards. And when these standards come under legislative attack, we use political advocacy, education, and litigation to defend them.

We also work with states to continue strengthening access to solar power and their renewable energy targets. For example, our ongoing advocacy helped persuade New York State to commit to 3,000 megawatts of solar and to getting 50 percent of electricity generation from renewable resources by 2030. As we help California get even further with solar power, we are pushing the state to meet the same ambitious targets.

In some states, net-metering and renewable energy standards have come under attack from the fossil-fuel industry and its allies in state legislatures. NRDC has successfully defended these policies, working closely with local partners who have experienced the benefits of renewable power in their communities. In Kansas, for instance, the renewable energy standard helped generate 12,000 local jobs in the wind industry and brought $3 billion in investment to the state.

We are building on states’ successes to call for a national renewable energy standard. This would spread the benefits of renewable energy to communities across the country. Generating 30 percent of the nation’s electricity from renewable energy by 2030 would save Americans more than $25 billion on our combined electricity and natural gas bill, since burning less gas in power plants will reduce demand for that fossil fuel, thereby lowering process. It would also unleash $294 billion in new capital investment in renewable energy technologies over the next 15 years—$106 billion above business as usual.