Misinformation about renewable energy continues to circulate in a range of areas. In this blog, we set the record straight with hard facts that reinforce renewable energy’s vital and indispensable role in the climate transition.

Myth 1: Renewable energy is not economically viable.

  • New utility-scale wind and solar projects are among the least expensive sources of new bulk electricity generation in the U.S. The unsubsidized levelized cost of energy (LCOE) – i.e., the average total cost of building and operating a power plant over its lifetime per unit of generated electricity – for both solar and wind is now lower than the LCOE for natural gas and coal.
  • Solar and wind energy fuel is domestic and free, reducing the vulnerability of electricity costs to global price spikes. Residential natural gas costs, in comparison, increased by 20% last year.
  • New renewable projects in the U.S. attracted $448 billion in private-sector investment over the last 10 years. Corporate procurement of renewables reached record levels in 2022, and now over 380 companies have 100% renewable consumption targets.
  • Efforts to expand the transmission system to allow for increasing renewable energy deployment offer additional reliability and economic benefits across the nation. A one-gigawatt (GW) transmission line can save up to an average of $670 million per year by mitigating price spikes between regions. For example, during Winter Storm Uri, one GW of transmission between Texas and the Southeastern U.S. would have saved nearly $1 billion and kept the heat on for hundreds of thousands of Texans.

Myth 2: The transition to renewable energy will have a negative impact on employment and local communities.

  • Employment in the U.S. renewable energy sector is growing. In 2021, the renewable electricity sector (including solar, wind, geothermal, hydropower, and biomass energy) employed a record 539,175 American workers. In the last quarter of 2022 alone, the creation of new clean energy manufacturing facilities in the U.S. created 6,850 manufacturing jobs. Solar PV installers and wind turbine service technicians are projected to be among the fastest-growing occupations in the U.S. through 2031.
  • Increasing access to renewable energy would reduce the energy burden for low-income households, who spend up to 30% of their income on energy costs. Due to the clean energy tax credit extensions in the recently passed Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), utilities announced $2.5 billion in consumers savings in the form of lower electricity rates.
  • Renewable energy projects provide tax revenue and landowner lease payments to states, cities and school districts. Wind projects provide more than $1.6 billion in state and local taxes and landowner lease payments annually. Solar rent payments can be more than double what farmers receive for traditional agriculture operations. In Illinois, school districts received 63% of their total revenue from the property tax revenue associated with the development of utility-scale wind and solar farms in 2019.
  • Renewable energy expansion reduces health damages caused by the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and air pollution resulting from fossil fuel power generation, which disproportionately harm LMI and tribal communities. An analysis of six studies modeling the impacts of federal clean electricity policy indicates that expanded renewable energy could avoid health and climate damages ranging from $100-250 billion through 2030-2035 and $1-3 trillion through 2050, along with avoiding 85,000-300,000 premature deaths through 2050. These benefits far outweigh the studies’ observed energy cost increases.
  • Renewable energy projects can co-exist with other competing land use. The land surrounding wind power plants can still be used for grazing, ranching and farming, and solar PV systems can be co-located with agricultural systems in a way that increases both energy and crop productivity, enhancing overall land productivity.

Myth 3: The pollution impacts and mining needs associated with renewable energy manufacturing outweigh the emissions reductions benefits achieved through the technologies’ lifetime generation.

  • The lifecycle GHG emissions from renewable energy technologies are substantially lower than fossil fuel alternatives. Renewable technologies emit between 400 and 1,000 g CO2eq/kWh less than their fossil-fueled counterparts without carbon capture and sequestration (CCS).
  • Solar PV and wind technologies require less mining and extraction than fossil fuels. While the expansion of renewable energy technologies to reach climate goals will require increased mining for critical minerals, the projected global amount of critical minerals required for solar PV and wind deployment in a net-zero by 2050 scenario is less than the amount of coal and gas mined in 2019 alone.

Myth 4: Renewable energy makes our grid less reliable.

  • In its most recent Long-Term Reliability Assessment, the North American Electric Reliability Corporation stated that: “As natural-gas fired generation continues to increase, vulnerabilities associated with natural gas delivery to generators can potentially result in generator outages.”
  • During Winter Storm Uri, natural gas and coal plants accounted for three-quarters of the outages, deratings and failures to start in the Texas and South-Central region. Similarly, 91 percent of all outages in the mid-Atlantic region during Winter Storm Elliot were from natural gas and coal-fired plants.
  • As transmission expands, the geographic diversity of resources is accessed, and the reliability of the grid increases. Coupling renewables with an expansion of transmission is especially beneficial for reliability – when the sun is not shining in one location, the wind may be blowing in another.
  • Renewable resources can play an important role in the operation of microgrids that ensure reliability during power outages for communities such as islands, rural areas and military bases. For example, a solar, storage and microgrid project began construction in 2022 at the Joint Forces Training Base in Los Alamitos, which will support the base with carbon-free energy resources 99% of the time and allow the base to continue operating if there is an outage on the power grid.

Renewable energy has already led to significant breakthroughs in creating a more affordable, reliable, and resilient U.S. grid and energy economy.

ACORE looks forward to maximizing renewable energy’s full potential by supporting implementation of the IRA and promoting continued reforms in transmission expansion, siting and permitting, supply chain, workforce development and sustainability policies. Learn more about our work here.