Each year the United States uses the equivalent of 7 trillion pounds of coal to heat and light our homes, fuel our cars, and power industry. Our dependence on dirty fossil fuel-based energy is simply not sustainable. It drives climate disruption, destroys habitat, endangers wildlife, and causes toxic air and water pollution. We need an alternative to burning away our land, biodiversity and future, and we need it today. And while the shift to 100 percent renewable energy by mid-century is critical to avoid greater than 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming, we also need an energy system that combines wildlife-friendly renewable energy sources with conservation and efficiency to provide healthy, affordable and equitable energy for everyone.
Learn more at www.choosewildenergy.org.
Making our renewable energy future a reality will take a combination of personal action — such as homeowners installing rooftop-solar panels and corporations aligning their energy procurement to the long-term wellbeing of their customers and the environment — and an unprecedented shift in the way our government plans and funds energy sources.
On an individual level, it’s already evident that when people better understand the impact of their choices about energy and have information on how they can make the change to renewable and more efficient sources, they make decisions that benefit their households and the planet. In some cities and counties, we’re seeing and supporting community-based progress in renewable energy via community-shared renewable programs and fights against unfair fees.
Corporations are also realizing that a clean and wildlife-friendly energy portfolio means long-term economic growth and sustainability.
Given the complexity of the U.S. energy system, policy solutions to get to 100 percent sustainable and wildlife-friendly energy will encompass an enormous range of laws, regulations and programs at all levels of government to set goals and standards for accelerated renewable energy development. It requires local, state and federal level actions to level the playing field for clean and sustainable energy technologies, streamline and standardize regulatory processes, and drive clean energy technology innovations.
The realization of a sustainable clean-energy future also demands that we refine the concept of what can be considered as renewable energy sources. Not all energy projects commonly referred to as “renewable” are truly sustainable or good for wildlife. For example, dams to produce hydropower alter entire river ecosystems, biomass made from trees significantly contributes to climate change (see here) and habitat loss, and even large-scale solar and wind farms destroy habitat and can result in concerning levels of bird and bat mortalities when poorly sited or designed.
The path toward a healthier, sustainable and wildlife-friendly energy future for America relies on two basic — and achievable — principles: First, we must stop investing in new fossil fuel development and immediately shift resources to rapidly expand wind and solar energy that are carefully planned, properly sited and effectively managed to minimize threats to wildlife. Second, we have to reduce energy consumption by using energy more efficiently and reducing demand, no matter the source. By generating and consuming less overall energy, we can reduce our energy demand and improve the outlook for our climate, wildlife, air and water.
No source of energy is more wildlife friendly than energy that’s not consumed in the first place. Using energy wisely is just as important to creating a sustainable future as getting it from cleaner sources. Energy conservation and improved efficiency are the shortest paths to ending our dependence on fossil fuels. [read more]
In other words, needing less energy in the first place lowers demand and means fewer energy-generating devices and transmission lines disrupting the landscape and less impact from manufacturing and installing new energy sources, even as population continues to grow. Americans waste more than 50 percent of the energy generated — and because we lose so much of the energy that is produced, we can save millions of watts, tons of greenhouse gas emissions and dollars. Simple, existing solutions like high-efficiency lighting and appliances, heating and cooling for buildings, electric vehicle fleets (from noncarbon electricity) and better manufacturing practices across industry will go far in creating a system where energy needs can be met in a sustainable way. Using less energy saves consumers money as well, and is especially beneficial for economically and socially disadvantaged populations and communities.
We can — and must — install the solar and wind we need without paving over our planet with harmful new infrastructure or causing major harm to biodiversity. A wildlife-friendly energy system will include significant amounts of distributed PV solar generation on rooftops, parking lots, road surface and other built structures. New renewable-energy generation facilities will be designed to minimize environmental footprints, including avoiding siting on ecologically important land areas or habitat of vulnerable species and using every technological and operational innovation to minimize harm to plants and animals. A sustainable energy future means investing in and installing renewable sources that not only protect the planet, but provide affordable, clean energy to those who need it the most and clean up the air, water and land in their communities.
The Center for Biological Diversity is working to create a sustainable energy future that addresses critical climate disruption problems while recognizing the need to protect sensitive wildlife and habitats. Through our Population and Sustainability Program, we’re advocating for policy approaches that advance wildlife-friendly energy such as distributed solar, urging businesses and the government to implement forward-thinking energy plans and providing tools for activists and the public to push the renewable energy revolution forward in their communities and the country.
Other Center programs are using advocacy and legal campaigns to keep fossil fuels in the ground and fight global warming pollution, work to improve planning and siting of specific large-scale renewable energy projects and seek appropriate avoidance measures and protections for wildlife and habitats with robust mitigation for impacts that are not avoided. Through science, public policy and social change, we’re fighting for an energy future that is not just renewable, but able to sustain healthy communities and a rich diversity of species.