If someone told you that it was possible to fuel the world entirely with renewable energy, what would you say?
That’s the question that the founders of The Solutions Project were confronted with in 2011, when they realized that the only thing standing in the way of 100 percent renewable energy across the globe was politics.
In 2009, Stanford University environmental engineer Professor Mark Jacobson published peer-reviewed research in Scientific American showing that it was possible for the nation to transition to 100 percent renewable energy. Two years later, actor Mark Ruffalo and banker Marco Krapels, both of whom were highly opposed to fracking and looking for a sustainable, feasible alternative, discovered this research. The three men decided to start the Solutions Project in order to bring these theoretical possibilities closer to reality.
Jacobson and a team of scientists from Stanford, Cornell, and UC Davis created feasibility studies, not only for all fifty states via the “50 States 50 Plans” initiative but for 139 different countries, showing real ways that we can meet these goals by 2050.
The Project also began highlighting the reasons why this transition is so important. Not only would it create more employment and reduce energy costs, but it would also end the health hazards of dirty energy.
“Families are losing fathers or daughters as a result of dirty energy,” says Sarah Shanley Hope, executive director of the Solutions Project.
Now that it has become clear that 100 percent renewable energy worldwide is a possibility, these effects aren’t just dire, they’re inexcusable.
“We have a choice,” says Hope. “We can change our energy system, save lives, save money, and obviously save the climate.”
So what’s stopping us?
In Hope’s opinion, “it’s not economics, it’s not technology, it’s politics.”
“It’s our culture,” she says. “And that is, of course, both heartbreaking and also hugely inspiring, because this is a people problem, not a technology problem.”
In some circles, the “people problem” is on its way to being resolved: the Solutions Project applauds corporations like Google, Apple, and Walmart and entire states like Iowa who have taken strides towards 100 percent commitments, in some cases even achieving them. The small, conservative town of Georgetown, Texas, fulfilled its 100 percent goals just last month.
The inspiration of seeing what is possible will, in Hope’s opinion, bring more people toward this commitment, be it by driving solar electric vehicles or choosing solar power for their homes, either installing solar panels or investigating clean energy purchasing programs, which are often the same or very similar in price to traditional energy.
“From our perspective,” says Hope, “what we need to do is connect these dots, share those stories of success.”