In the Aftermath of Earth Day

Celebrating Earth Day often feels like New Year’s Eve. We all get excited, drink some environmental kool-aid and make pledges like cutting carbon that we subsequently forget until the next Earth Day. But the aftermath of this Earth Day feels a little different.

Last month, the Intergovermental Panel on Climate Change delivered their latest report on the state of our global climate. The report warned that we are already seeing melting glaciers, rising tides, dying coral reefs and that the worst is yet to come. But under the doom and gloom was a sliver lining: fixing our climate problem won’t cost as much as we initially thought. As Paul Krugman of the New York Times put it, salvation is getting cheap.

With solar prices falling 75% since 2008 and costs of other renewables dropping as well, it’s becoming easier than ever to switch to renewable energy. Last year, renewables, not including hydropower, accounted for 44% of all new electric generating capacity, according to Bloomberg’s latest energy report.

The challenge, of course, is integrating this new renewable energy into an electric grid designed for centralized fossil fuel plants. This is why many businesses, cities and homes are beginning to integrate energy storage with their solar PV and EV chargers, thereby avoiding expensive demand charges from peak energy use.

Recently, many environmentalists have begun advocating for energy storage to receive the same investment tax credits that renewable energy has received over the years. These tax credits could help energy storage grow and fill out the missing piece of the transition to a lower-carbon world.

By our estimates, energy storage could boost investor returns on solar projects by as much as 15%, all while reducing greenhouse gases and stress on America’s aging electric grid. Lux research estimates that the combined market for solar PV and energy storage will represent $2.8B over the next five years. Energy storage is just one of the many exciting pieces of technology that will help us reduce greenhouse gases more quickly, efficiently and cheaply– if given the proper support.

As we reflect on this year’s Earth Day, let us not forget the genius of human innovation. We accomplished the seemingly impossible task of driving rapid growth through steam engines, cars, factories and the modern electric grid. Now it is our task to heed the call of the IPCC and capitalize on the opportunities presented by increasingly cheap sources of clean technology.