Have you ever closed your eyes and wondered what a solar utopia would look like? If you are like me, you would think of sandy beaches, a lot of sun, a healthy native population. Maybe you wouldn’t see solar collectors or solar panels in such obvious places. You need not dream any more. The three tiny islands that comprise the New Zealand territory of Tokelau, Atafu, Nukunonu, and Fakaofo, have recently achieved something no other place in the world has accomplished: complete and total freedom from fossil fuels.
Posts Tagged ‘clean energy’
Did you catch the State of the Union address last night? Hurray for renewable energy, but it is a speech that he could have given two years ago, pre-Solyndra. But a lot has happened in the last two years. In mild understatement, Obama conceded that, “Some technologies don’t pan out; some companies fail.” And some companies fail in a big way. Now the demise of Solyndra will be a big campaign issue, regardless of the merits of whether the federal government should have provided a loan guarantee to Solyndra. This accommodation of fossil fuel is simply recognition that this country will be dependent on non-renewable sources of energy for decades to come. Whether Obama’s moderate energy vision will gain any traction in an election year is a matter of considerable dispute. We shouldn’t lose hope that some energy policy will emerge, but don’t count on much progress in this election year.
I was glad to hear that solar made it into Obama’s speech earlier this week, but solar is finding itself lumped in with some strange bedfellows, nuclear and now even natural gas. How did that happen? Sometimes the story of a product or technology is all in the marketing. The success or failure of a product may depend less on the ultimate merits or utility of a product but more on the consumer’s perceptions of that product. In other words, it depends on what consumers think they see, not what they actually see. To get solar into the mainstream, then, we need to come up with a new branding effort. “New and improved solar” is not going to get us very far, but we need you to weigh in helping the solar industry to adopt a new nomenclature that will attract the masses. Think cheap solar, or eco-solar, or simply superb solar. The one that I like the best is sexy solar as in I just put some sexy solar panels on my roof this week.
We went to a reception by the Clean Economy Network last night—we had a chance to meet with lawyers and lobbyists, financial analysts, and even a few solar energy installers. We got a good review of industry trends and some of the upcoming challenges from Reed Hundt, CEO of the Coalition for Green Capital and Ethan Zindler, Head of Research at Bloomberg New Energy Finance. There is obviously keen interest in renewable energy these days. Take a look at the news article we posted today on some of the latest optimistic trends in the solar industry. Support for solar energy is up—right across the board, regardless of party affiliation or geography. Some want to reduce the threat of global warming, and some want to create jobs, and still others simply want to do their part to save energy. The solar energy industry is optimistic that the residential PV market will continue to expand. At the reception, despite some of the hopeful signs, there were some long faces in the room.
Ever since Barack Obama was inaugurated as president, the air in Washington has been thick with expectation for a coherent energy policy. When Obama announced early in his administration that energy was one of three critical priorities—along with health care and education— hopes were high that this country was on a leadership path in the global effort to reduce greenhouse gasses. We are still waiting and chances are not good that we will soon any significant breakthroughs any time soon.