According to the Energy Department's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, the United States would have to quadruple its annual sun-power capacity and increase it year after year as it transitions to a renewable-dominant grid to combat the existential threat of climate change.
Officials said Wednesday's report is not meant to be a policy statement or an administration goal. It is instead "designed to guide, inspire, and motivate the next decade in solar innovation by helping answer questions such as: How fast solar needs to increase its capacity and at what level?" said Becca Jones, director of the Energy Department’s Solar Energy Technologies office.
Jennifer Granholm, Energy Secretary, stated in a statement, "illuminates that solar, our most affordable and fastest-growing source for clean energy, could produce enough power to power all homes in the U.S. in 2035 and potentially employ as many as 1.5million people."
This report comes just as President Joe Biden declared that climate change is now "everybody’s crisis" while visiting neighborhoods affected by Hurricane Ida's remnants. Biden said Tuesday that America must be serious about climate change's "code red" threat or risk increasing losses of life and property.
Biden stated, "We can't reverse it very much, but it can be prevented from getting worse," before touring a New Jersey neighborhood devastated by Ida-caused flooding. "We don’t have any time."
Biden has used the natural disaster to urge Congress to approve his $1 trillion plan to strengthen infrastructure across the country, including water and sewer systems. This will help to protect against extreme weather. The Senate passed the legislation and it is now up for a House vote.
According to the Energy Department, the U.S. has installed 15 gigawatts in solar generating capacity for 2020. Solar now accounts for just over 3%, according to the Energy Department.
According to the DOE's National Renewable Energy Laboratory's "Solar Futures Study", the United States will need to quadruple its annual solar capacity additions by 2035 and supply 1,000 GW to a renewable-dominant power grid. According to the report, 1,600 GW of solar energy could be produced on a zero carbon grid by 2050. This would produce more electricity than is consumed in all commercial and residential buildings in the country. The report stated that decarbonizing the entire energy system could lead to as high as 3,000 GW solar in 2050, due to greater electrification in transportation, buildings and industrial sectors.
The report stated that the U.S. must increase its solar capacity by an average of 30 GW per annum between now and 2025, which is double the current rate, and 60 GW annually from 2025 through 2030.
Abigail Ross Hopper is the president and CEO at the Solar Energy Industries Association. She said that the study "makes clear that without significant policy advancements, we will not be able to achieve the levels decarbonization we need".
Wednesday's letter from almost 750 companies to Congress included recommendations for policy changes. Hopper stated that the Biden administration's goals were achievable with these policies and a committed private sector.