Delivery vans in Pittsburgh. Buses in Milwaukee. Cranes loading freight at the Port of Los Angeles. Every municipal building in Houston. All are powered by electricity derived from the sun, wind or other sources of clean energy.
Across the country, a profound shift is taking place that is nearly invisible to most Americans. The nation that burned coal, oil and gas for more than a century to become the richest economy on the planet, as well as historically the most polluting, is rapidly shifting away from fossil fuels.
A similar energy transition is already well underway in Europe and elsewhere. But the United States is catching up, and globally, change is happening at a pace that is surprising even the experts who track it closely.
Wind and solar power are breaking records, and renewables are now expected to overtake coal by 2025 as the world’s largest source of electricity. Automakers have made electric vehicles central to their business strategies and are openly talking about an expiration date on the internal combustion engine. Heating, cooling, cooking and some manufacturing are going electric.
As the planet registers the highest temperatures on record, rising in some places to levels incompatible with human life, governments around the world are pouring trillions of dollars into clean energy to cut the carbon pollution that is broiling the planet.
The cost of generating electricity from the sun and wind is falling fast and in many areas is now cheaper than gas, oil or coal. Private investment is flooding into companies that are jockeying for advantage in emerging green industries.
“We look at energy data on a daily basis, and it’s astonishing what’s happening,” said Fatih Birol, the executive director of the International Energy Agency. “Clean energy is moving faster than many people think, and it’s become turbocharged lately.”
More than $1.7 trillion worldwide is expected to be invested in technologies such as wind, solar power, electric vehicles and batteries globally this year, according to the I.E.A., compared with just over $1 trillion in fossil fuels. That is by far the most ever spent on clean energy in a year. [Continue reading…]