The Path Forward on Clean Energy in the United States

The path forward to curb climate change and advance clean energy in the United States has taken a sharp turn, following the recent election. As our Foundation’s Chair and CEO both noted recently, our organization takes a long view and remains committed to helping accelerate progress.

I remain optimistic that even if the new federal administration chooses to abandon global leadership on climate change—an issue so central to the nation’s security and economic prosperity— other powerful forces will continue the positive momentum we have seen in recent years. These forces—economic, technological, state, and international—will combine to help assure that politics will not stop the progress toward a clean energy future.

The world community reiterated this with its renewed commitment, just a few weeks after the U.S. election, to press ahead with implementation of the Paris Agreement. Furthermore, plummeting costs of advanced technologies like LED lights, and solar and wind power, mean that markets are accelerating progress. Politics won’t stop technological advancement.

If national policymakers threaten to rollback progress, many organizations will defend Americans’ right to clean air, public health and consumers’ ability to choose new vehicles or appliances without worrying that they may be costly energy-guzzlers.

At the same time, states set much of the energy policy in the United States. Increasingly, they recognize that the most affordable, secure, and reliable energy for the future is clean energy. For example, Illinois just passed a bipartisan energy jobs bill that will cut energy waste, increase renewable energy, and ensure continued reliance on nuclear power. Arizona has leading policies to improve energy efficiency, save consumers money, and cut pollution. And California, with an economy equivalent to the sixth largest in the world, continues to demonstrate that economic prosperity and clean energy progress go hand in hand.

International opportunities will also yield big steps forward in the coming years. For example, the 170 countries that agreed to the Montreal protocol amendment to phase out potent greenhouse gases will be supported by a group of 19 funders, including the Heising-Simons Foundation, to simultaneously improve the energy efficiency of cooling equipment. This will provide more affordable access to air conditioning and refrigeration around the world, save consumers money, improve power reliability, and cut pollution.

And even though progress does not follow a straight line, and instead zigs and zags over time, I am confident that it will continue. Our partner organizations’ work to advance progress on clean energy and avoid the most devastating impacts of climate change is now more important than ever.

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