Sustainability might have started as a buzzword. But today, it’s evolved into something meaningful, with great societal and economic importance. The increasing implementation of sustainable technologies points to continued renewable energy growth. With that growth comes a variety of economic opportunities.
Renewable Energy Growth Is Driven by Innovation
Whether we like it or not, climate change is here. Scientists predict disastrous effects that will only worsen if action is not taken immediately. As a result, the clean tech and renewable energy sectors are growing at unprecedented rates and on a global scale. More and more companies, governments, and major investors want to see technological shifts that will help repair some of the damage already done and stop future problems before they happen.
As part of its push toward renewable energy, China recently announced that it would invest $361 billion in renewable power by 2020. The country also expects to generate 320 gigawatts of wind and solar power, as well as 340 gigawatts of hydro power. In May 2017, China switched on the world’s largest floating solar project in the city of Huainan. Capable of producing 40 megawatts of power, the plant floats on a man-made rainwater lake. It will produce enough energy to power 15,000 homes. Symbolically, it was built on an area previously used for coal mining.
In 2016, Britain built a similar 23,000-panel floating solar farm on the Queen Elizabeth II reservoir in Surrey to help power a treatment plant and surrounding homes. Innovative solar projects like these are just one sign of renewable energy growth all over the world.
India, ranked fourth in the world for installed wind power capacity, hopes to boost its use of electric vehicles. Private firms like Tesla are committed to continued innovation in this sector. It’s currently creating so-called gigafactories to produce lithium-ion batteries and new electric car models.
Affordability Drives Renewable Energy Growth, Too
A Morgan Stanley analysis found that solar panel pricing fell 50% between 2016 and 2017. That’s right, 50% in one year. Meanwhile, wind power costs can be between one-third and one-half lower than coal-fueled and natural gas-fueled power plants, with the right wind conditions.
According to the University of Texas Energy Institute, natural gas and wind power are the two cheapest ways to generate new electricity throughout most of the United States. Some regions see even greater comparative price savings due to local health costs, water availability, and government regulations. That affordability means that companies producing clean energy technologies and companies who use those technologies are well positioned to thrive now and in the future.
Energy Isn’t Losing Jobs—It’s Gaining Them in New Places
The renewable energy sector is creating jobs at a rate 12 times faster than the rest of the US economy, according to a report from the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF). In recent years, solar and wind jobs have grown at annual rates of 20%. In the electric power generation sector, the solar industry accounts for nearly double the combined number of jobs in coal, oil, and natural gas generation technologies. According to EDF, the sustainability sector now represents 4 to 4.5 million jobs in the United States, up from 3.4 million in 2011.
With overall renewable energy growing so aggressively, hiring is not likely to slow down and jobs will continue to be created. Clean, renewable energy is not only here to stay—it’s here to provide a sustainable boost to the economy and job market, too.