WildEarth Guardians supports a future where 100% of our energy needs are met with clean, renewable energy. Our Doable Renewable Campaign focuses on prioritizing efficiency and conservation, while at the same time sowing the seeds for wind and solar to take root on a scale that can fully replace fossil fuels.
We understand that renewable energy carries a cost. Manufacturing, development, operation, and maintenance of renewable energy impacts our environment. Renewable energy is not benign. In recognition of these costs, our vision of a 100% renewable future is guided by three key elements:
- Focus on Efficiency and Conservation First: The cleanest and cheapest form of energy is the form that’s not used or needed. Efficiencies provide the same services using less energy. Conservation simply means consuming less. Demand-side management of electricity consumption, green building standards, and myriad other opportunities to increase efficiency and promote conservation exist.
- Next Use Existing, Grid-tied Infrastructure to Develop Distributed Renewables: Traditional solar photovoltaic panels, or even next generation concentrated solar photovoltaic, placed on existing buildings and other structures that are already connected to the electric grid provide an enormous opportunity for renewable electricity generation and eliminate the need for new transmission. In the West, rooftop solar alone could provide anywhere from a quarter to more than half of each state’s energy needs. Nationally, using just 10% of our highway right-of-ways for distributed solar could generate 100% of our electricity. Other opportunities for distributed generation include small-scale wind and combined heat and power installations.
- Finally Develop the Right Renewables When Necessary: Utility-scale renewable energy will be needed even with efficiencies, conservation, and full utilization of on-site, grid-tied solar and other renewables. When and where additional renewables are needed, the emphasis should first be on developing wind and solar. If needed, utility-scale wind and solar should first be installed in areas already impacted by development, such as reclaimed coal mine land, existing or former power plants, urban corridors, and agricultural lands. Private lands should be prioritized.
Siting needs to protect wildlife, respect neighboring communities, and safeguard other values that may be impacted. Other potential sources of renewable energy, such as geothermal, hydropower, and biomass, should be considered only after all other options have been fully exhausted.
Our Vision and the Intersect with Reality
While our vision is clear, it’s also tempered by the realities we currently operate in. In many cases, current policies, politics, and capital flow make it difficult to develop distributed renewable energy, focus on conservation and efficiencies, or otherwise ensure ideal development of renewables. While WildEarth Guardians is committed to changing these policies and transforming the politics that prevent the key elements of our renewable energy vision from becoming a reality, we are also attuned to the need to urgently confront our destructive dependence on fossil fuels.
In general, renewable energy carries a benefit, particularly when considering the threat of global warming to the wildlife, wild places, and wild rivers of the American West. To that end, we support renewable energy development that may not conform to the specifics of our vision, but that makes progress toward our vision. We cannot afford to delay achieving a 100% renewable future. Although we are driven by our vision, we recognize there is a present need to accept certain costs.
To address these costs, as well as rise to the challenge of transitioning away from fossil fuels while less than ideal policies are in place, WildEarth Guardians’ efforts to achieve a 100% renewable future are further guided by the following principles:
- We favor wind and solar: Other sources of renewable energy, such as biomass, geothermal, and hydropower, pose significant impacts and uncertainties. Wind and solar are generally less environmentally impacting, more efficient, cheaper, and capable of offsetting more fossil fuels.
- Assess the full costs and benefits: We need to fully assess the most significant costs and benefits across time and space, including climate, air, and water benefits from displaced fossil fuels.
- No double standard: All renewable energy development should be held to the same legal standards as any other form of development in terms of protection of wildlife, water, air, wilderness, etc.
- Get involved early: We will strive to get involved early in the planning of renewable energy developments to ensure that a broad range of siting alternatives are considered and that the least impacting alternatives are proposed before major amounts of capital are invested in projects.
- Secure commitments to offsetting fossil fuels through support for furthering renewable policies consistent with our vision: We need to ensure that fossil fuels are truly displaced by renewable energy. Commitments from renewable energy companies to either directly offset fossil fuels or to support key policies that help displace fossil fuels will be key to making progress toward our vision.
- Look for creative solutions: Renewable energy development should not get a free ride as far as safeguarding wildlife, wild places, and wild rivers. We will look for opportunities to secure commitments from companies for more creative ways to deal with impacts, such as conservation funds and offsite mitigation.
- Fight fossil fuels: Fossil fuels are the greatest direct, indirect, and cumulative threat to wildlife, wild places, and wild rivers. We need to continue to intensify our efforts to prevent additional oil and gas drilling, shutter coal-fired power plants, and tackle new coal mining plans throughout the West.
- Support or improve policies to increase conservation and efficiency and develop distributed renewable energy: We need to create and support opportunities to increase conservation, efficiency, and for distributed generation utilizing existing, grid-tied sites. We cannot effectively achieve our vision without ensuring that our current policies are dramatically transformed.
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Defend Colorado and our Climate from Trump
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