The Cost of Doing Nothing

The Cost of Doing Nothing


Most people agree that we should stop burning
imported fossil fuels for energy. What people tend to disagree on, is the cost
of implementing renewable energy. Some feel that the best strategy for Florida
is to do nothing, because the initial cost of renewable energy
seems too high. But in fact, renewable energy actually costs
less over the long term compared to doing nothing. The initial cost of renewables needs to be
seen as an investment, just as sending a student to college is an
investment; the long term benefits far out weigh the upfront
costs. So how do we get there? The first step to a sustainable energy future
is to increase the energy efficiency of our homes. By reducing the amount of energy we use in
our homes, we can reduce our energy costs, and have more money for the things we enjoy. Energy retrofits are an excellent example
of investing for the future. These improvements pay for themselves over
time and as the cost of electricity increases,
so do the savings from the retrofits. For example, by 2020, energy retrofits can
save an estimated 56% per month off of our electricity
bill. To achieve this level of savings, starting
from the most cost effective, we should install a programmable thermostat. Next fix leaky ducts, install compact fluorescent
lighting, insulate hot water storage tanks, upgrade
ceiling insulation, use an energy star refrigerator, install a
solar water heater and use a more energy efficient air conditioner. For example, homeowner A retrofits his house,
while homeowner B chooses to do nothing. If we tally up their mortgage and electricity
costs over the next ten years, we find that homeowner A actually has paid
less than homeowner B. Not only has homeowner A spent less money,
he has also increased the value of his home, emitted less greenhouse gases, employed local
workers, and stimulated the local economy. Lets take a look at the numbers. Using the previous example, if 3% of the homes
in Florida are retrofitted each year, by 2020 each home will save $1,536 per year, a total of $285 million in energy cost savings
for the 186,000 retrofitted homes, and a saving of 1.05 million tons of CO2. Each year we will generate $3.8 billion in
new economic activity, 42,000 direct jobs and 15,000 indirect jobs. The next step to sustainability is Renewable
Power Generation. Currently, we import all of our fossil fuels
that are used to generate electricity. This results in 15 Billion dollars being shipped
out of state each year. If we could instead use one of Florida’s
natural resources to produce electricity, it would put that 15 Billion dollars back
into Florida’s economy. Why not use the energy source that is renewable,
clean, and has no fuel costs? Sunshine. Of course, this is when the argument comes
up that “Solar electric panels are too expensive.” Currently, electricity from photovoltaics,
or PV panels, is more expensive than electricity obtained
from burning imported fossil fuels. But in a few short years something very interesting
is going to happen. It’s called “Grid Parity”. Grid parity is simply the point in time when
the falling costs of PV, equals the rising cost of conventional electricity. From that point on, PV becomes the electricity
producer of choice and the idea of burning fossil fuels for electricity
just doesn’t make economic sense. The large debate focuses on when grid parity
will be reached. Estimates range from two years to ten years
– but grid parity is inevitable. “That’s great!” you may think, “Let’s wait until we reach grid parity
and then buy PV when it’s less expensive.” The only problem with that idea is that PV
manufacturers are currently looking for locations to build
manufacturing plants. Naturally, they are picking states that have
a large demand for their products. If Florida doesn’t create a market demand
for PV before grid parity is reached, we will only be trading our imported fossil
fuels for imported PV panels. We will miss out on Billions in revenue and
economic activity occurring from new jobs, and the opportunity to export Florida-made
PV panels around the world. By investing in solar energy now, we bring
new manufacturers to Florida, creating economic benefits that far out weigh
the initial investment. When you stop focusing only on the initial
cost, and focus on the long term energy and economic
security, it’s plain to see that renewable energy
in Florida ultimately costs far less than doing nothing.

3 thoughts on “The Cost of Doing Nothing

  1. Good job. The grid-parity and demand-that'll-draw-the-jobs issue is an important one, and I like the presentation. One thing I would like to have seen is something on the 'true' cost of the fuel sources w/o the subsidies in respect to the PV-generated electrical costs (including line loss, federal/state/local incentives, taxes/fees paid on current and future sources, etc.) But, good nonetheless.
    Mike Troutner, SunWize, St. Pete FL

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