Michael R. Brower Keynote Address
GO SOLAR Renewable Energy Fest Greater Fort Lauderdale-Broward County Convention Center
June 6-7, 2014
Good morning, I am Michael Brower and I am the President and Chief Executive Officer of the American Council On Renewable Energy…. ACORE.
Thank you Kay, Administrator Henry and Mayor Sharief for your kind invitation to speak with this very important group of Renewable Energy leaders and game-changers!
I am gratified by your invitation in support of this exceptionally important element of the renewable energy value proposition which is so important to our national security, economic security and environmental security and OBTW, I think solar power is way cool!
Speaking of security, this week in Washington, the Administration published the proposed rule for power plant carbon emissions. This is very important business for all renewables.
We all know clean, renewable energy is affordable, scalable, and reliable.
As we expand renewable capacity with scale, costs go down.
This new proposed rule pushes away from high carbon emissions and leads renewables toward the bright sunlit uplands because we are the cleanest, most efficient and effective way to generate CO2-neutral power. Truly, it is a bright move.
But doing right and good things is never easy…. A few days ago my friend, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, noted that every attempt to stifle the harmful emissions of fossil fuel energy has been met with doomsday predictions… that never pan out.
I suggest, that’ll be the case with these new proposed regulations as well.
For example, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce study cited by many opponents of the proposed rule assumed much more stringent Clean Air Act Section 111(d) regulations than the Administration actually proposed…thus once again those opponents are basing their so-called fact-based arguments on their incorrect assumptions and guesses.
Somehow, such an approach fails to inspire confidence.
Don’t get me wrong, I believe everyone has a right to their opinions.
That is the cornerstone of our democracy and the constitution, which I swore to support and defend all those many years ago when I became an officer and aviator for the Navy here in Florida.
But it is clear, as the late and very great, Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan was apt to often remind me, “ Brower, everyone has a right to their own opinion, but no one has a right to their own facts. Fact is Fact.”
Fact is…. affordable clean renewable energy makes complying with the proposed rule less expensive not more expensive. We’ve seen this validated by the RGGI Compact in the Northeast where fuel switching, improved energy efficiency, increased renewable energy output caused emissions to drop by 29% since RGGI launched. While electricity prices are lower than they were before RGGI took effect and we know, from 2010 to 2012, the costs of complying with the renewable energy portfolio standards across 24 states represented just 1% of retail electricity rates.
Cases in point, last year, the average wind energy power-purchase-agreement in the Midwestern U.S. was just 4.8 cents per kW/h.
The EPA forecasts the new power plant regulations will be able to bring electricity prices down by 8% by 2030.
And let’s never forget about the role renewable energy’s first cousin… energy efficiency… can play in meeting these rules.
Peer reviewed research demonstrates that saving energy is generally about 1/3rd cheaper than generating it.
Fact is, there is no basis for the claims that these rules will significantly raise electricity costs.
Properly, the states are being allowed great flexibility to decide how to meet these carbon reduction goals.
That means that, under the proposed rule, Florida can choose the portfolio of clean renewable energy that works the best for Florida.
And after all Florida is the Sunshine State….and no matter what anyone says Florida sunshine is perfect for solar PV, concentrated solar power, solar thermal, solar drying and every other use of this inexhaustible renewable solar resource you might think of.
As mentioned in my introduction, early in my adult life I was a Naval officer and aviator… in fact when I was more senior, I visited Fort Lauderdale in the aircraft carrier USS John F. Kennedy.
One thing that the Navy taught me was the value of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics…STEM. Something that mystified me at University, and not until flying and navigating on the open ocean did I realize that everything I learned from Euclid was right. Euclid told us: Things which are equal to the same things are equal to each other. That's a rule of mathematical reasoning and its true because it works - has done and always will work. Euclid said this fact is self-evident.
Today, I suggest to you that the national security, economic security and environmental security renewable energy value proposition are equal to each other and thus are the same things.
So, why then did I come to Broward County and your Go Solar Fest? Mostly because nationally, efforts like Go Solar, over the past decade have successfully demonstrated that local governments and their citizen constituencies are the vanguard blazing the pathway forward for renewable energy and energy efficiency improvements.
The effectiveness of local action, led by you, your neighbors and local leaders with homes in your community —have far and away--regularly exceeded the effect of efforts taken by bigger governments. Efforts like Go Solar are motivated by the “right stuff.” The creation of local jobs, local reduction of energy costs, community solutions to climate and pollution, and local advancement of your own sustainability goals.
Today, around the world, governments at the community, city, regional, island, and even small country levels have begun to forge their own transition pathways toward a 100% renewable energy future. So I am here from ACORE to share some of the linkages between your imperative local renewable energy development efforts and the often complex landscape of national and global efforts.
I am sure you understand that I could talk for hours about the American Council On Renewable Energy; but the Go Solar planners asked me to be accurate. Be brief. And be seated. So, I promise I will be as brief as possible… no matter how long it takes.
ACORE is based in Washington DC…ACORE is a 501(c)(3) non-profit membership organization and is dedicated to building a secure and prosperous America and world with clean, renewable energy. ACORE provides a common educational platform for a wide range of interests in the renewable energy community, focusing on technology, finance, policy and project and market development. We convene thought leadership forums and create energy industry partnerships. The scope of ACORE's national membership spans all constituencies in the renewable energy sector, including financial institutions, project developers, government leaders, educators, end-users, professional service providers and allied non-profit groups.
We facilitate communications among our members, their stakeholders and the media. We exist because there is a real world requirement for a unifying voice for renewable energy.
Since ACORE uniquely represents all renewable sources, we are able to provide that unifying voice making the business case for all renewable energy technologies and resources. Equally, ACORE actively combats disinformation, attacks misinformation and sets the record straight. Using fact not opinion to influence, ACORE suggests we are helping to reframe the national energy discussion to build broader bipartisan support for modernizing energy policy and improving access to capital in order to promote the development and deployment of clean, renewable energy. We educate, advise and focus the business community, policy makers, and the public on the value proposition of renewable energy using:
Energy Fact Check.org—A website that refutes misinformation by providing the facts, stats and information necessary to rebalance the discussion of energy in America. The facts and nothing but the facts…that’s EnergyFactCheck.org.
The Energy Communicators Group (ECG)—A group of 600 + renewable energy industry-wide communicators who coordinate on communications strategy and messaging. The daily ECG Note—each day, we electronically deliver news, reports and information, coordination of push-back and/or amplification on important renewable energy stories and events.
Capitol Energy— each week, ACORE publishes an electronic brief of news, reports, information and events sent to over 2,000 Senators, Representatives and Capitol Hill energy staffers to get them up to speed and keep them focused on critical renewable energy updates.
ACORE.org—ACORE updates this industry news feed daily. Through our site, we provide our members and the public with a Resources section with ACORE and industry reports and papers; a repository of ACORE press releases; and the ACORE Blog. This is an amazing website…please visit if you have a moment.
We are all over Twitter and Facebook: Follow us @ACORE and @EnergyFactCheck. Everybody at ACORE tweets…even me. Feel free to follow me @acoremrb.
But please don’t think ACORE is all cyberspace.
This year, ACORE inaugurated a partnership with NASCAR Green to engage, educate and hear from over 110 million NASCAR fans on renewable energy and energy efficiency. Simply, NASCAR Green is the most innovative and effective sustainability program in the entire world of US sport. Lockheed Martin Corporation is our Founding Sponsor for the ACORE-NASCAR Green Partnership. Today Lockheed is working very diligently with the ACORE team to encourage global energy literacy on renewable energy, energy efficiency, and sustainability.
We are working together to encourage STEM education relative to renewable energy like solar, and to demonstrate why the four STEM disciplines are critical to the success of America’s national security, economic security and environmental security future.
You know, America has always thrived on innovation. And ACORE is certain we must foster the next generation of innovators to continue to develop renewable and sustainable solutions to meet the world’s ever growing energy needs. Engaging with NASCAR, the nation’s most advanced technology sport, helps ACORE promote innovation. Our NASCAR partnership enhances our message about the values of renewable energy.
LOUD AND CLEAR to the 110 million Americans who are NASCAR fans.
If you are one such fan or want to be one, please come see us and visit our pavilion at the Daytona 500 on 4th of July! And at other races around the country!
Until then, let’s take a moment to explore how solar power enhances our national, economic and environmental security.
SOLAR In the US
New U.S. solar installations, as expected, are accelerating, going from a cumulative 10 GW in mid-2013 to almost what projects to be 20 GW by the end of 2014. North America was led by the United States, which was the third largest global country-level market for solar installations in 2013.
U.S. installations were up 41% over 2012 to 4.8 GW, for a total of 12.1 GW installed. This is changing the game for U.S. consumers. California installed more than half of this new capacity California is the first major U.S. residential market to successfully transition away from state-level incentives.
Nationwide successful manufacturers have continued expanding into project development, operations, and maintenance. They are also building strategic partnerships to advance technologies and expand markets. For example, First Solar acquired GE’s cadmium telluride portfolio, while both announced a partnership to advance thin films; SolarCity teamed up with American Honda and BMW to make solar PV more affordable for hybrid and electric vehicle owners. Recently, Austin Energy in Texas signed a power purchase agreement for 150 MW of solar energy at 5 cents per kW/h. That’s less than half the average retail price of electricity in the U.S. In Minnesota, a judge ruled that a $250 million solar plan represented a better value than four competing natural gas proposals. Face to face solar energy beat fossil fuels on a cost-comparison without a state subsidy.
Why is all this so important? Jobs measure economic security, my friends, U.S. jobs. U.S. solar employed 142,698 on 11/31/13, up from 119,016 on 9/30/12. That’s 23,682, or 19.9%, more jobs in just over one year. Importantly, 77% of those new jobs were newly created positions--rather than replacing existing workers--that is a signal of growing national solar capacity. Solar is a strong employer of veterans… a matter very close to my heart… 9.2% of all solar workers, compared to a 7.57% in the national economy, are women and men who served our nation’s call. Equally, solar beats the national averages when it comes to employing our minority communities, including Latinos, Pacific Islanders, and Asians.
The jobs –and the falling costs- don’t lie. Today, the U.S. is approaching solar grid parity and solar power price commodization. Right now, in California and the U.S. Southwest, there is near grid parity for solar power. These are amazing days we are living in.
Beyond the U.S., the most significant renewables growth occurred in the power sector with global capacity exceeding 1,560 gigawatts (GW), up more than 8% over 2012. For the first time, the world added more solar PV than wind power capacity; solar PV and hydropower were essentially tied, each accounting for about one-third of new renewable capacity. Solar PV has continued to expand at a rapid rate, with annual growth in global capacity averaging almost 55% over the past five years.
Last year, for the first time in more than a decade, Europe was no longer the top market for new solar power installations. About 11 GW of PV capacity was connected to the grid in Europe in 2013. But China was the top market last year with 11.8 GW, followed by Japan with 6.9 GW and the United States with 4.8 GW. As of 2013, the cost per MWH of rooftop solar was below retail electricity prices in several countries, including Australia, Brazil, Denmark, Germany, and Italy. During 2013 and early 2014, more and more large plants were commissioned in several countries—including Jordan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.
There are also many promising markets across Africa. One of the continent’s largest markets to date is South Africa, which has procured substantial capacity under a government bidding process and connected their first plant (75 MW) to the grid in late 2013.
By early 2014, the world’s 50 biggest plants reached cumulative capacity exceeding 5.1 GW. At least 14 of these facilities came on line in 2013. By one estimate, solar PV is deemed to be competitive without subsidies in at least 19 markets (in 15 countries).
Increasing interest in renewable energy in the Latin American and Caribbean region is reflected in ambitious targets and policy support. For example, Uruguay aims to generate 90% of its electricity from renewable sources. While Grenada is targeting 20% of its primary energy from renewables by 2020. In Brazil, hydropower expansion is expected to become increasingly constrained by environmental sensitivity and the remoteness of much of the remaining resource.
In the Caribbean, countries are aggressively pursuing the deployment of renewables to reduce their heavy reliance on fossil fuels.
Across the region, despite having an average electrification rate of almost 95%, energy access remains a challenge: an estimated 24 million people, primarily in rural and remote areas, still lack access to electricity. Some countries have achieved virtually 100% electrification, while others have far to go. Renewables will play an important role in achieving universal energy access in these places because solar energy is abundant across the region. And while solar PV represents an increasingly important opportunity for off-grid and rural areas, the market has experienced an overall shift from small domestic applications to larger-scale power plants.
This improved environment for renewables is attracting new national and international investors. The region saw significant increases, in Chile, Mexico, and Uruguay investment was over 1 billion US$ each for renewables. Crystal ball gazers claim Peru is the next hot-spot.
Despite any near term challenges, the region is demonstrating unprecedented growth and significant opportunities for expansion. If you are interested in Latin American and the Caribbean, ACORE is convening the Renewable Energy Latin America and Caribbean Conference and Exhibition… RELACCX 2014 in Fajardo, Puerto Rico, in November 2014. Please join us in Puerto Rico, and in the meantime, follow us on Twitter at R-E-L-A-C-C-x.
Benefits of Solar Power
One of the advantages of solar energy growth is clearly the financial benefit. As I shared, solar energy costs have fallen off a cliff. That’s a tactical advantage for solar energy — it can compete with the cost of retail electricity. The bad news is that the price of fossil-fuelled & nuclear electricity is projected to rise considerably in decades ahead. There are many old fossil-fuelled & nuclear power plants that need to retire. New power plants and infrastructure cost a lot more than old ones.
Going solar fixes your price of electricity for decades to come, which helps your immunity to the direct cost of future electricity. One of the reasons, Elon Musk is spending billions to build his game-changing battery storage plant in Arizona instead of going for cheap fossil fuel in Mississippi is that after amortization the Arizona solar power is basically free. I understand, it’s the same sun that shines on Florida!
Solar PV is free of carbon and free of inputs to air and water pollution.
Solar helps to conserve water, which is vital to the energy-water nexus because U.S. non-hydro electricity generation uses more water than agriculture. You know, that west of the U.S. 100th meridian, which runs North-South through the middle of Kansas, nearly 90% of the land fits the definition of semi-arid, arid or desert lands. Well, solar PV uses 20 times less water per kWh of electricity than nuclear power plants and 16 times less water than coal power plants.
When it comes to carbon avoidance, a solar power system for a typical 3-bedroom home offsets 50 tons of CO2 over 20 years, saving the equivalent of: driving a car 125,000 miles, the CO2 absorbed by 60 trees, 12.1 tons of coal. AND TO MY WATER ENERGY-NEXUS POINT… saving the 40,000 gallons of water used generating the electricity.
These benefits, combined with better health and a healthier environment, don’t encapsulate all of the benefits of solar energy —but they are certainly important ones.
Advances in Solar Power
In 1953, a time I remember very well, solar efficiency was 4.5%, a 230W panel was 192 sq ft and the uninstalled cost of one watt was $1,785. In 2012, solar efficiency was over three times better, a 230W panel was 11 times more compact, and the uninstalled cost of one watt had fallen by over 99% to $1.30. Just two years later, the same 230W panel is even smaller and the uninstalled cost of one watt is .64 cents.
There are many reasons why solar panel prices are down so much. Those reasons are STEM…Science, Technology, Engineering and Math….and Scale. STEM experts made these key efficiency advancements in solar panel technologies. Panel efficiency and technology growth to effective scale are equal factors. Smaller more efficient panels = more yield per square foot=more capacity=lower price=national security, economic security and environmental security.
The phrase ‘low-income’ rarely appears in solar energy press coverage in the United States. But some have set their sights on expanding the market for residential solar to include low-to-moderate-income communities. According to the U.S. government, low income Americans pay 9.2% more than the average U.S. household on their average electricity bill. Three approaches – group discount programs, affordable leases, and community solar installations – are making solar power available to these communities in some states. While group discount programs and affordable leases are designed for homeowners, community solar installations also include renters and property owners whose homes are not suitable for solar panels. The present barriers preventing solar power from reaching some low-income communities include requirements related to home ownership and credit scores. Here, your local leaders can be most effective in breaking down barriers.
WHAT CAN YOU?
Clearly, the benefits of solar abound…as do opportunities for getting involved.
- Encourage distributed solar generation to your local, state and national leaders.
- Ask them to implement policies that support the deployment of solar with energy storage at critical facilities that provide services to all your community members.
- Encourage your leadership to use existing bond financing tools to finance solar on public buildings and non-profit-owned facilities.
- Integrate public funding of solar PV in communities to workforce development funds and job training programs.
- Combine bulk purchasing programs like consumer purchasing co-op models with energy consumer education.
- The legislature or local government can create innovative public benefits funds to leverage private investment in renewable energy projects benefiting communities.
My friends, in closing, I am reminded of two important thoughts, which to me equal each other.
First, I heard a story about a traveler who visited a Greek monastery… perched high on a steep mountain.
The only way to reach the monastery was in a rope basket.
The traveler got into the basket, and just as he was about to be taken up the steep cliff wall, he noticed that the rope lifting the basket was frayed.
He asked the monk. “How often is the rope replaced?”
The monk said, “every time it breaks.”
Sadly that has been the attitude of the fossil fuel industry for almost 60 years.
But when the rope breaks this time, it’ll mean global temperature increase by 2.6 degrees… as soon as 2040… and that’s a fact.
That, my friends, is a national security, economic security, and environmental security show-stopper.
I say... let’s replace the rope before it breaks with clean renewable energy and take the best advantage possible using Florida’s abundant solar resource.
Second, I am reminded of a lesson Mother Teresa, who dedicated her every sinew and fiber to the glory of God and the dignity of mankind, taught us: When Mother Teresa was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979, she said, “When we work hard all day long, it feels like we are only a drop in the ocean. But if our individual drops were not in the ocean…the ocean would be dry.”
So I offer to GO SOLAR… Each one of you is a drop in OUR carbon-free ocean. And, without each of you it will be empty, lifeless and dry. Please…. Never forget how important your efforts are.
So, I am pleased to admit, I stand with you and Thomas Edison who said, when asked about the best way to generate electricity, “I’d put my money on the sun and solar energy.” Smart guy Thomas Edison.