The past year has brought several challenges — among them, extreme weather events and natural disasters across the globe have been some of the worst in recent memory. With climate issues continuing to escalate each year, the urgent need for action has never been more apparent.
The International Energy Agency predicts that, despite emissions reductions tied to the pandemic shutdown, the world is not set for a “decisive downward turn” in emissions. While there has been momentum on energy transition, the agency’s report underscores the fact that faster and bolder structural changes are needed to achieve a zero-carbon future, which is why we believe forging alliances in the public and private sectors is necessary for that to happen.
According to the EPA, the transportation sector in the United States emits the largest share of greenhouse gases — in 2018, it accounted for 28.2 percent of overall emissions. While the power sector is making strides to decarbonize the electric grid, equal attention should be paid to electrifying transportation.
We won’t reach a zero-carbon future when our cars, trains, buses, ships and planes continue to run on fossil fuels, and we won’t reach a zero-carbon future without commitment and investment in our energy and transportation infrastructure by private and public entities and organizations. Sustainability nonprofit Ceres reported there is a need for an additional $1 trillion per year in clean energy investment to limit global temperature rise to below 1.5 degrees Celsius and avoid the worst impacts of climate change.
Progress is underway. With the news in September from the governor of California requiring that by 2035, all new cars and light trucks sold there must be zero-emission vehicles, and the governor of Michigan committing to a timeline to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, states are beginning to make strides toward clean, renewable energy.
These announcements, and others from major automotive companies such as General Motors, which plans to have 30 new EVs by 2025, indicate that large companies, utilities and municipalities are recognizing the need to curb climate change. With the Energy Act of 2020 being approved by Congress late last year, billions of dollars will be invested in energy initiatives including transportation energy storage technologies, demonstrating that the government is serious in changing the EV infrastructure of tomorrow.
The growing adoption of EVs must be matched by an increase in smart charging infrastructure that enables electric vehicles to be charged with cleaner energy both at home and on the go. Ensuring EVs are charged with clean energy greens up the transportation system and increases the demand for renewable energy — what we refer to as dual decarbonization.
According to the Department of Energy, EVs are 60 to 73 percent energy efficient but can get up to 100 percent efficiency with advanced features such as regenerative braking, making their growth an important step to a more sustainable future. That said, not all consumers can install rooftop solar or live in a utility service territory that has a large portfolio of clean energy. They need options. Luckily there are solutions nowadays that give EV drivers the ability to purchase Green-e certified renewable energy certificates to match the consumption of any EV anywhere in the U.S. with carbon-free electricity.
According to BloombergNEF, global EV sales were 2.1 million in 2019 but are expected to hit 8.5 million by 2025. The key to remember is that it is not just cars on the road, but cars plugged into our current grid infrastructure that need further investment and access to renewable energy. We’re making progress, with the International Energy Agency reporting that the share of renewables in global electricity generation jumped to nearly 28 percent in the first quarter of 2020 from 26 percent in first quarter of 2019. It’s an improvement, but we’ll need to move at a much quicker pace if we’re going to get in front of the pace of EV growth.
Globally, we need to start thinking about energy differently and invest more in renewables that will reach the everyday consumer, helping push us closer to the dual decarbonization of the energy and transportation system. We want to provide options for the consumer to take great control of their energy usage. We imagine a future that includes even more advanced options, such as vehicle-to-grid technology, giving greater control over power consumption to municipalities. In a crisis such as rolling blackouts caused by heat waves or other natural disasters, utilities could limit power consumption via smart chargers or even draw on the power of plugged-in EVs to prevent critical failures. By rethinking the way we look at the grid, we change the way we think about consumption.
At times like this when change is inevitable but forces continue to push back, sustainability advocates and consumers must make their desire for more options known and do what they can to help address the climate crisis, support options that enable drivers to invest in renewable energy, and push utility companies to consider new renewable initiatives. With more affordable and efficient EV options becoming available for consumers every year, it is the perfect time to join the EV revolution, especially as the infrastructure improves over the next few years.