We CAN afford the Green New Deal and the technology and expertise is available

The Good News About a Green New Deal, The New Yorker, March 2019

Last month’s rollout of the Green New Deal, a fourteen-page legislative resolution, sponsored by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey, that called for “net-zero greenhouse gas emissions” through a ten-year “national mobilization,” has sparked a good deal of controversy. The resolution was larded with goals not directly tied to the environment, such as guaranteeing everyone a job, affordable housing, and high-quality health care, and even some energy researchers who are enthusiastic proponents of transitioning rapidly to a zero-emissions economy questioned the timetable of a single decade for converting power production entirely to renewable sources.

“I don’t think anybody who is deep inside the substance is talking about that,” Jonathan Koomey, a special adviser to the chief scientist at the Rocky Mountain Institute, told me. Robert Pollin, a professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, who has helped design a number of Green New Deals for individual states, including New York and Washington, said, “I think it is wonderful that the issue is being addressed, but I don’t think this movement has yet accepted that you have to do these things carefully and rigorously.”

Despite these reservations, Koomey and Pollin, as well as a number of other researchers I spoke with, said the drafters of the Green New Deal were perfectly right to urge large-scale action across many parts of the economy, and they emphasized the technological opportunities that now exist to meet many of the environmental goals that underpin the proposed legislation, if not the exact timetable it lays down. In a report released in October, which the Democratic resolution cites and endorses, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said that if the world is to contain the rise in global temperatures to 1.5 degrees Celsius, carbon emissions must be reduced by about fifty per cent before 2030, and completely phased out before 2050. For a U.S. economy that currently relies on fossil fuels for about four-fifths of its energy, achieving zero emissions, or something close to it, by the middle of the century would be a historic transformation. And, according to all the researchers I spoke with, rapidly advancing technology and the falling costs of clean energy make this more achievable than ever.

“Right now, we have about ninety per cent or ninety-five per cent of the technology we need,” Mark Jacobson, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford, told me. In a series of papers, Jacobson and his colleagues have laid out “roadmaps” to a zero-emissions economy for fifty states, fifty-three towns and cities, and a hundred and thirty-eight other countries, with a completion date of 2050. Just as in the Democrats’ Green New Deal, the central element of these roadmaps (and others) is converting the electric grid to clean energy by shutting down power stations that rely on fossil fuels and making some very large investments in wind, solar, hydroelectric, and geothermal facilities. Jacobson said this could be completed by 2035, which is only five years beyond the target set out in the Green New Deal. At the same time, policymakers would introduce a range of measures to promote energy efficiency, and electrify other sectors of the economy that now rely heavily on burning carbon, such as road and rail transport, home heating, and industrial heating. “We don’t need a technological miracle to solve this problem,” Jacobson reiterated. “‘The bottom line is we just need to deploy, deploy, deploy.”

Saul Griffith, a materials scientist and inventor who is the chief executive of OtherLab, a San Francisco-based technology incubator that focuses on clean energy, agrees. In recent presentations, Griffith has sketched out an aggressive plan for switching to clean power and electrifying heating and transportation, which he says could be completed within twenty years. “It’s entirely reasonable to do it,” he said. “The United States is lucky because of its natural advantages. It’s a country with low population density, good wind, good solar, and good hydro resources. The only reason not to do it is political inertia and the influence of the existing fossil-fuel industry.”

Pollin is working on a national zero-emissions plan with an end date of 2050. He said it will combine many of the elements in the Green New Deal, such as stricter emissions standards, extensive public investments, and tax incentives for reducing carbon consumption and investing in clean energy. And, like the Democratic proposal, Pollin stresses the need to provide financial aid and retraining for people currently working in fossil-fuel industries, which would be shrunken drastically under any such plan. “It needs to be done, and it can be done,” he said. “But it needs to be done judiciously.”

Underlying a lot of the optimism is a steep fall in the cost of generating electricity from renewable sources. With the development of bigger wind turbines, the cost reductions associated with wind power have been particularly impressive. Mara Prentiss, a professor of physics at Harvard whose book “Energy Revolution,” from 2015, emphasized the potential of renewable energy, pointed out to me that doubling the diameter of a turbine yields four times as much power, and that some modern turbines have diameters of a hundred metres. Costs have also fallen sharply in the solar-power industry, where there has been great progress in building more cost-efficient photovoltaic systems, including solar cells, inverters, and transformers. Just a decade ago, Pollin pointed out, electricity generated from sunlight cost about twice as much as electricity generated from coal; now, the costs are roughly equal.

Every year, the U.S. Energy Information Administration calculates a levelized cost of electricity, or L.C.O.E., which represents the average per-megawatt-hour cost of building and operating a power-generating plant over the course of its life cycle. For power facilities that would enter service in 2023, the E.I.A. estimated the L.C.O.E.s of onshore wind and solar at $42.80 and $48.80, respectively, compared with $40.20 for advanced natural-gas power stations. (The L.C.O.E. of nuclear would be around ninety dollars). Some existing coal-fired plants are cheaper, but they are also very dirty. In calculating the future cost of electricity generated from coal, the E.I.A. assumes that new coal-fired plants would be built with sophisticated systems to capture and sequester carbon emissions. Allowing for this requirement, the E.I.A. estimates the L.C.O.E. of coal-powered plants entering service in 2023 at close to a hundred dollars.

These figures suggest that, going forward, electricity generated from renewable sources will be competitive with natural gas, and cheaper than coal and nuclear power. (And these figures don’t take into account the existing tax credits for investing in clean energy. When these credits are included, the L.C.O.E.s of onshore wind and solar are even lower: $36.60 and $37.60, respectively.) In some parts of the country, energy consumers are already benefitting from these trends. Prentiss pointed out to me that Iowa now generates more than thirty-five per cent of its electricity from wind. The retail cost of electricity in the state is 8.73 cents per kilowatt-hour, she said, compared to a national average of 10.48 cents.

Iowa, of course, is a windy state. People need electricity all the time, regardless of the weather. For this reason, among others, the E.I.A. analysis pointed out that care should be taken in comparing the costs of different types of power. Defenders of fossil fuels go further. In a recent article about the Green New Deal, Myron Ebell, an analyst at the Washington-based Competitive Enterprise Institute, which receives some of its funding from oil and gas companies, wrote that the electricity grid “cannot operate on 100% intermittent and variable power—or even 50%.”

Koomey said researchers generally agree that getting to eighty-per-cent reliance on renewable sources of electricity is now a practical option. “The issue is more getting from eighty to one hundred,” he said. “I don’t know yet if one hundred per cent is possible. What I do know is that the cost trends are heading in that direction. And if we can solve the problems like seasonal heat storage, we can deal with most of the remaining challenges.” When I asked Koomey about the skeptics, such as Ebell, he replied, “The folks who are saying you can’t get to fifty-per-cent or eighty-per-cent intermittency are the same folks who were saying you can’t get to two per cent when wind and solar first came on.”

To guarantee a reliable electricity supply, Koomey suggested keeping some nuclear and natural-gas plants running, at least during the transition. (The Green New Deal rules out gas plants but doesn’t rule out keeping some existing nuclear plants running for a time.) But rather than focussing on the challenges of going all the way to a hundred per cent, the most important thing is to recognize the scale of the transformation necessary and get started on it immediately, Koomey insisted. “So far, all the tweaking around the edges hasn’t reduced carbon emissions nearly enough,” he said. “You need to start shutting down high-carbon infrastructure on a schedule, and you need to stop building new carbon infrastructure. Ultimately, there is no other way.”

Even if we did succeed in creating an electricity grid entirely powered by renewable energy, getting to zero carbon emissions for the over-all economy would involve overcoming some tough problems, such as finding practical ways to store large amounts of energy for longer periods of time, and weaning long-distance air travel and commercial shipping from the fossil fuels on which they now rely. (Jacobson and Prentiss insisted that there are technological fixes on the way in these areas, too, such as the development of better lithium batteries, and advanced hydrogen fuel cells; Prentiss also emphasized the possibilities of low-carbon biofuels and synthetic fuels.) In a recent article, Pollin argued that large-scale investments in energy efficiency, such as retrofitting buildings and switching to electric car engines, which waste a lot less energy than internal-combustion engines, “can cut U.S. per capita energy consumption by roughly 50 percent over twenty years.” Even then, though, the investments needed in wind and solar would be very substantial. In “Energy Revolution,” Prentiss calculated that satisfying the country’s total average energy needs with wind power would require covering about fifteen per cent of the U.S. landmass with wind farms, and relying entirely on solar power would require about one to 1.5 per cent of the landmass to be devoted to solar farms. Not for nothing does the Green New Deal resolution talk of a Second World War-style mobilization.

To illustrate how such a clean-energy economy might work, Jacobson brought up his own home on the Stanford campus, which has solar panels on the roof, two lithium batteries in the garage, and an advanced electric heat pump. “I have no gas or oil bills, no electricity bill, and no gasoline bill for cars, either,” Jacobson said. “And I generate twenty per cent more energy than I need, so I get paid five hundred dollars by the utility.” Jacobson estimated the up-front cost of equipping his house was about sixty thousand dollars. “With the subsidies that the government provides, it is a five-year payback,” he said. “Without the subsidies, it would be a ten-year payback.”

How much would it cost to create a national version of Jacobson’s domestic economy? There are at least two ways to answer this question. The first is to look at up-front capital costs. The other is to consider long-term trends in energy costs, and to consider the large-scale social and economic dislocation that may result if we don’t drastically reduce carbon emissions.

According to Jacobson, his plan to convert the United States to clean energy would cost between ten trillion and fifteen trillion dollars, in total, depending on how it was implemented. If the plan was enacted over thirty years, that would come out to as much as five hundred billion dollars a year, or about 2.5 per cent of current G.D.P. Pollin’s estimates are a bit higher. To meet the I.P.C.C. emissions targets, he reckons that wealthy countries such as the United States need to invest about three per cent of current G.D.P. per year expanding renewable sources and raising energy-efficiency standards, compared to the current figure of 0.5 per cent.

Interestingly, a new analysis of the Democrats’ Green New Deal from the conservative American Action Forum contains figures that are comparable to Jacobson’s and Pollin’s. Taking the midpoints of its estimates, the study says it would cost $10.3 trillion to create a low-carbon electricity grid, a net-zero emissions transportation system, and to “upgrade all existing buildings” to higher energy-efficiency standards. Spread out over thirty years, the cost would be about three hundred and forty billion dollars a year, or 1.7 per cent of current G.D.P.

To be sure, that’s a large sum. But it’s less than half of the annual defense budget, and the taxpayer wouldn’t have to supply all of it. In almost all the academic transition plans that are out there, most of the capital would come from private investors and companies. The federal government would certainly make some substantial investments, too. But its main role would be to enforce strict emissions standards, provide tax breaks for investments in renewables and energy efficiency, raise carbon taxes to discourage fossil-fuel consumption and help finance the transition, and provide support for communities that are adversely affected. The great bulk of the energy industry, including most of the new wind and solar farms, would remain privately owned. Like the original New Deal, this would be managed capitalism rather than state socialism.

For actual policymaking, coming up with detailed proposals in all of these areas would obviously be critical. But the first challenge is to recognize the transformative possibilities that exist and establish ambitious goals. The Green New Deal does that. It holds out the prospect of a future in which U.S. carbon emissions are massively reduced, if not entirely eliminated, and clean, economical energy is readily available to all. That, surely, is an attractive vision.

The next step is resolving the details and mobilizing support from a broad range of individuals and groups. Both will be necessary to make progress, which the organizers of the Green New Deal recognize. “The goal has always been to release a plan by January 2020 that will include all the major elements of a pathway to zero emissions,” Rhiana Gunn-Wright, the policy lead for the Green New Deal at New Consensus, a progressive policy group, told me. Gunn-Wright said she and her colleagues were making arrangements for extensive consultations with energy experts, environmental activists, and representatives of communities that would be impacted. “A green transformation will affect everyone,” she said, “so we think that everyone should be at the table in the policymaking process.”

Some of the energy researchers I spoke with are already getting involved in that process. Griffith has been talking with people associated with Ocasio-Cortez, and last month he testified to a subcommittee of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology. Pollin is drafting a national plan, which he intends to submit to policymakers in Washington. The rollout of the Green New Deal may have been troubled, but it has started something.

John Cassidy has been a staff writer at The New Yorker since 1995. He also writes a column about politics, economics, and more for newyorker.com.

Excerpt from Truthdig, March 2019, It’s the Green New Deal or Else

It’s simply not true that we lack the technological expertise to achieve zero carbon emissions. Writing for Scientific American, Stanford engineering professor Mark Jacobson and University of California at Davis research scientist Mark Delucchi have shown repeatedly over the last decade that humanity could convert to a completely renewable energy-based system by 2030 if nations employ technologies vetted by scientists rather than those championed by private industry.

In their state-level analysis, which focuses on New York and California, Jacobson and Delucchi conclude that wind turbines, water machines, solar installations and other green technologies are affordable and available for rapid utilization. “The main obstacles are political and social—getting politicians onboard,” Jacobson told a leading science reporter six years ago. “There are always naysayers who think it’s pie in the sky, that we’ll never get there. And there are people who are tied into a certain industry who push back the most.”

The Green New Deal would cost a lot of money, Ohanian insists. What, like the giant tax breaks that Donald Trump and Congress gave the richest 10th of the 1 percent and their corporate allies, adding $2.2 trillion to the national debt (equal to $17,500 per household)? Like our subsidies for the military-industrial complex, which costs taxpayers $700 billion today and is projected to cost $972 billion by 2024, despite having the largest carbon footprint of any single institution on earth? Like the $204 billion spent on advertising in the U.S. last year to push a maddening surfeit of consumer products, many, if not most, designed in accord with the ecocidal principle of built-in obsolescence?

From 2014 through 2018, the global capitalist system spent $2.72 trillion on advertising alone. Imagine where we’d be on the path to slowing climate change if all that money had been spent on wind turbines, water machines, solar installations, sustainable agriculture, reforestation and green retrofitting, infrastructure and regional planning. There’s more than enough money to fund training to close the skilled heating, ventilation and air-conditioning-worker gap.

Meanwhile, Ohanian’s classist notion that workers will become indolent and inefficient if they are guaranteed a living wage is a Dickensian old wives’ tale. Productivity positively—not negatively—correlates with a living wage. And how does Ohanian think workers are supposed to lead dignified lives without one? Are millions of young adults supposed to live with their parents indefinitely or rely on food pantries and homeless shelters to get by while working full-time jobs?

Outsourcing, offshoring and automation are not without solutions, such as government and union restrictions; capital controls; green government jobs programs to absorb technically displaced workers; international efforts to raise wages and labor standards abroad; and guaranteed national incomes. Much of this is addressed in economist Robert Pollin’s important book, “Greening the Global Economy,” which advances “just transition” polices that include “solid pension protections, re-employment guarantees, as well as retraining and relocation support for individual workers, and community-support initiatives” for communities negatively affected by the suspension of fossil fuel extraction and burning.

Here’s a true pipe dream (maybe we should call it a “pipeline dream”): the continuation of a decent human existence even for rich nations comparatively sheltered from the worst consequences of climate change.

In 2008, James Hansen, then head of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, and seven other leading climate scientists reported that we would see “practically irreversible ice sheet and species loss” if the planet’s average temperature rose above 1 degree Celsius (1.8 F), thanks to carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere reaching 450 parts per million (ppm).

When the report was published, CO2 levels were at 385—“already in the dangerous zone” according to Hansen and his team. They warned that deadly, self-reinforcing “feedbacks” could be triggered at that level. The dire prospects they warned of included “ice sheet disintegration, vegetation migration, and [greenhouse gas] release from soils, tundra, or ocean sediments.”

The only way to assure a livable climate, Hansen and his colleagues warned, was to cut CO2 to at least 350 ppm.

Here we are, 11 years later, having blown past Hansen’s 1 degree Celsius red line since 2015. We currently stand at 410 ppm, the highest level of CO2saturation in 800,000 years. The latest climate report of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reflects the consensus opinion of the world’s leading climate scientists. It tells us that we are headed to a temperature increase of 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 F) in the next 12 years. Failure to dramatically slash emissions between now and 2030 is certain to set off catastrophic developments for hundreds of millions of people, the report warns.

The IPCC finds that at our current pace, we are headed for a 3- to 4-degree Celsius (5.4 F to 7.2 F) temperature increase by the end of century. That will mean a planet that is mostly unlivable.

It gets worse. Numerous climate scientists have indicated that the IPCC’s findings are excessively conservative. That’s because the institute deletes and downplays research demonstrating the likelihood that irreversible climatological tipping points could arrive sooner than expected. Among the reports pointing to these conclusions is a recent NASA-funded study warning that the unexpectedly abrupt thawing of permafrost could release massive volumes of CO2  and methane within a few decades.

Earth, biological and social scientists are increasingly raising the specter of climate-driven human extinction in the not-so-distant future. In vast swaths of the world, across much of sub-Saharan Africa, India, the Middle East, Latin America and Southeast Asia, climate catastrophe is already underway.

Conservative though it may be, the U.N. report is no whitewash. It gives us 12 years to drastically slash greenhouse gas emissions or face catastrophic consequences. It also calls for “unprecedented changes in all aspects of society” to drop global CO2  emissions 45 percent below 2010 levels and 60 percent below 2015 levels by 2030. We need to hit zero by the midcentury point, the IPCC says, and we cannot do that without radically and rapidly reducing our energy consumption.

Cost-benefit analysis? The Green New Deal is, if anything, insufficiently radical. It does not go to the full class-rule taproot of the many deadly ecological rifts (the climate crisis is only the most urgent) opened by capitalism’s relentless, totalitarian drive to commodify everything on earth. Progressive-Democrat Green New Deal advocates have yet to join serious ecosocialists in calling for green investments to be garnered from massive reductions in the U.S. military budget, which eats up more than half of federal discretionary spending and sustains a global military empire that is the world’s single largest institutional carbon emitter. The Green New Deal’s sponsors have yet to call (as they will have to if they are serious about environmental reconversion) for their program to be funded and protected from capital flight by the nationalization of the United States’ leading financial institutions.

Still, at least Green New Dealers are talking seriously about the benefit of a livable earth. It seems like society might want to be ready to absorb significant costs to achieve the continuation of the species. Professor Ohanian should write the environmentalists’ maxim 500 times on a UCLA chalkboard: “There are no jobs on a dead planet. There is no economy on a dead planet.”

Zero carbon emissions by 2030 (or even 2040) is a grandiose goal. But guess what? Now is precisely the time to aim sky high on ecology and way low on carbon release. How much are we willing to pay for human survival? Do environmental calamity and the real risk of extinction count as “extravagantly high costs”? When might we be willing to achieve the not-so-fringe benefit of continued existence by confronting the totalitarian “command and control” imposed on all of us by big carbon capital’s social and economic preference for short-term private accumulation and profit over the longer-term common good—over any kind of decent future for human beings and other living things?


If America can find $716bn for the military, it can fund the Green New Deal: If we redirected the trillions spent on fruitless wars, funding Medicare for All and a Green New Deal is perfectly realistic

The Sunrise Movement organized a protest to pressure Senator Mitch McConnell to support the Green New Deal on 25 February in Washington DC.
 The Sunrise Movement organized a protest to pressure Senator Mitch McConnell to support the Green New Deal on 25 February in Washington DC. Photograph: Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/REX/Shutterstock

At long last the political debate in the world’s richest country is vibrant with proposals that would help the most vulnerable in our society. And what do we hear in response? A growing chorus of naysayers.

Just pipe dreams” – that’s how the Washington Post columnist Robert Samuelson referred to proposals for guaranteed jobs, Medicare for All, universal childcare, and the Green New Deal.

Like many other pundits and politicians, Samuelson says we can’t afford such luxuries. Taxing the rich wouldn’t raise enough money. We’d have no choice but to resort to deficit spending.

Funny how some politicians have no qualms about ballooning the deficit with tax cuts for the rich but balk at investing in the long-term health of our people and communities. Just as peculiar: the fact that military spending cuts are virtually never mentioned as an option for freeing up funds for social good instead of war.

This year the US military budget is $716bn – and boy is it ripe for slashing.

That military budget represents about 53 cents of every discretionary dollar in the federal budget – and it’s one of the biggest reasons that people so often throw up their hands and shake their heads when they think about funding innovative ways to end poverty.

They don’t need to throw up their hands, though. The politicians and pundits should just start listening to children.

When young organizers from the Sunrise Movement recently challenged Senator Dianne Feinstein to support a Green New Deal, she told them “there’s no money to pay for it”. She probably didn’t expect those eight- and 10- and 11-year-old kids to respond immediately: “Yes, there is, there’s tons of money going to the military.”

Feinstein responded condescendingly that the military does “important things” with that money. Our never-ending wars say otherwise.

Last year saw the highest number of civilians killed in the Afghanistan war since the UN began keeping track – more than 3,800 people, 930 of them children. About a quarter of them were killed by US and Nato troops and their Afghan government allies – and most of those by US-Nato airstrikes and drone attacks. Thousands more were injured.

Committing such mayhem doesn’t come cheap. Last year alone, the war in Afghanistan, in its 17th year, cost about $45bn. And that’s just the immediate cost of fighting the war – it doesn’t include the costs of caring for injured US soldiers, let alone Afghan victims. It doesn’t include training more soldiers to replace the ones occupying Afghanistan now, or the enormous sums spent on the base Pentagon budget.

Most importantly, the war in Afghanistan hasn’t made us any safer, and isn’t making life better for the people of Afghanistan. (To take one grim measure, at the start of the war, Afghan babies faced the fourth-highest levels of infant mortality of any children in the world. Today, after almost 18 years of US war, Afghanistan is No 1.)

And those soldiers that have come back from the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and beyond? They still aren’t getting the care they need. They still struggle to access Veterans Administration clinics and hospitals, and they’re still killing themselves at rates advocates deem a “national emergency”. According to the VA itself, the Guardian reports, veterans aged 18-34, many of whom served in Iraq and Afghanistan, have “higher rates of suicide than any other age group”.

The human toll of these wars is staggering. And the financial costs are breathtaking. Neta Crawford, who co-directs the Cost of Wars Project at Brown University, estimated back in 2017 that total war spending in just Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan was approaching $5tn since 2001.

For just a quarter of that $2tn we’ve spent on a fruitless, brutal war in Afghanistan, the National Priorities Project at the Institute for Policy Studiescalculates we could instead fund more than 103,000 elementary school teachers, 112,000 clean energy jobs, 935,000 Head Start slots, and healthcare for 806,000 veterans and more than 2.3 million adults, and retrofit nearly 5.8m houses for solar electricity.

In fact, we could do all of that every year for 10 years.

Compared to all this, paying trillions for war isn’t an investment – it’s just a loss. It’s loss at a scale that, if it were reversed, would make a Green New Deal, Medicare for All, and all the rest perfectly realistic.

Which would make us safer?

William J Barber II is president of Repairers of the Breach and co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign. Phyllis Bennis is a fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies


BBC.com, March 2019 on Wales 100% Transition, excerpt:

Wales could meet 100% of its energy needs from renewable sources by 2035, under an “ambitious” new plan set out by policy experts.  It urges Welsh Government to allocate more of its budget to green energy.  The Institute of Welsh Affairs (IWA) predicts 20,150 jobs could be supported annually if the target is achieved.

First Minister Mark Drakeford said Wales was making good progress and the IWA provided a “welcome insight” into what the future could look like.  The 10-point plan is the culmination of three years of research by IWA, and will be presented to an audience of politicians and industry figures in Cardiff on Thursday.  

Shea Buckland-Jones, reenergising Wales coordinator at the think-tank said it believed renewable energy could “form a key part of Welsh identity” in future, but that more investment was needed.

While control over different aspects of energy policy is divided between the Welsh and UK governments, he said the research had shown “many of the powers needed” were in the hands of ministers in Cardiff Bay.

Currently just over 2% of the Welsh block grant is earmarked for energy – described as “insufficient to make real progress”.  The report urges ministers to announce an immediate 12-18 month “low carbon economic stimulus”, funded either through its block grant or new borrowing powers.

The money could be used to drive the development of locally-owned energy projects, improve the energy efficiency of homes and ensure complete coverage across Wales for charging low carbon vehicles.

According to the IWA’s calculations, Wales could create 20,150 jobs annually by switching to 100% renewable electricity by 2035.

This change would also create £7.4bn in total Welsh gross value added – the measure of the value of goods and services produced in a sector – and have a substantial impact on the country’s ability to meet its climate change targets.

Other measures the IWA wants to see include:

  • Using planning regulations and public land to support new renewable energy schemes.
  • A requirement for all new projects above 5MW to have between 5% and 33% local or community ownership.
  • Addressing “a general lack of knowledge and expertise” about the sector within key public organisations.
  • A “radical new approach” to transport, including a comprehensive decarbonisation plan.
  • Developing marine energy as a niche Welsh service in the global economy.

“There are environmental benefits, there are social benefits, there are economic benefits,” Mr Buckland-Jones explained.

“I think one of our clear messages from the final plan is that we need leadership on this – the scale of the challenge is quite drastic and we need Welsh Government action.”

How Wales run by renewables could stack up

  • 4,000 MW Tidal, wave, floating wind
  • 2,670 MW Solar PV
  • 2,545 MW Onshore wind
  • 1,700 MW Offshore wind
  • 115 MW Biomass, anaerobic digestion etc
  • 55 MW In-stream hydropower

Source: IWA/Re-energising Wales, 2019

The equivalent of 48% of Wales’ electricity consumption was met from renewable sources in 2017, with the Welsh Government wanting to see that rise to 70% by 2030.

One of the biggest challenges if all of our energy needs are to be delivered by green methods in future is what to do about heating.

The report says ministers should focus on energy efficiency measures in buildings to reduce demand.

It wants to see better insulation put in 870,000 homes in Wales, and support too for renewable technologies like heat pumps.

170,000 pumps could need to be deployed across the country, to complement other sources of heat such as getting it direct from biogas and biomass plants.

District heat networks – like the one planned in Cardiff – are also favoured.

Mr Drakeford addressed the report’s launch event and said it echoed many priorities in the low carbon delivery plan being published next week.

He added: “We have the potential to lead a renewable revolution but we cannot do this alone. Everyone in Wales has a part to play.”

Ysgol y Bedol has solar panels on its roof
Image captionYsgol y Bedol has solar panels on its roof and pupils like Eli have been learning about what they do

One school doing its share

At Ysgol y Bedol primary school in Garnant, Carmarthenshire – they have saved around £15,000 on their electricity bills over the last four years after 200 solar panels were installed on their roof.

The pupils learn about renewable energy in their lessons, using a screen which shows the output of the panels as a practical example.

Year six pupil Eli told us he felt “great to be part of something important to the environment”.

Solar cooperative Egni, which installed the panels, is now looking to do the same on a whole range of other buildings including local rugby and football clubs.

Director Dan McCallum said “everyone recognises about climate change and we’ve got to do something – we can’t get bogged down in bureaucracy and reasons why we can’t”.


Rob Proctor, business development manager at Community Energy Wales, said help from the government and public sector bodies to find suitable sites for new developments and more access to finance would help.

“Are there Welsh companies out there or would the Welsh public sector want to buy energy from the community sector? Perhaps we could enable that process so that they know it’s from the local area and is benefiting the local economy,” he added.