BY CATHY HOLT
Did you know that the cost of electricity from solar photovoltaics has dropped 73 percent since 2010, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency? Fossil-fueled electricity averages about 5 cents per kilowatt-hour; power from utility-scale solar photovoltaics is now selling for as low as 3 cents per kilowatt-hour and dropping, according to the EnergySage online solar marketplace. Solar PV-generated electricity is currently half the cost of coal, even without figuring in subsidies or the externalized costs of pollution and global warming. As electric bills continue to rise — the latest rate hike for Duke Energy Progress customers is 6.2 percent, going up to 7.3 percent in four years — solar prices continue dropping dramatically. What are we waiting for?
On Sunday, May 6, the public is invited to join 350.org’s Go Fossil Free! event, a free forum on renewable energy, 3-5:30 p.m. at Habitat Tavern and Commons, 174 Broadway, Asheville.
“With the recent resolution for 100 percent renewables passed by the county commissioners, people are wondering how they can be a part of this exciting momentum,” says Ann Kiefert, a spokesperson for 350 Asheville. “We organized this forum to meet that need and to give people several ways to get involved ― from installing rooftop solar to learning whether your bank or investment company is using your money to pay for fossil fuel infrastructure.”
Kim Porter of the nonprofit NC WARN will give the big picture for North Carolina’s transition to clean energy, as outlined in North Carolina Clean Path 2025. She notes, “We have the technology now to achieve 100 percent renewables in our state — we just need the political will and investments that will pay back in many benefits. This approach is cleaner, more reliable and much less costly than the $40 billion expansion of fracked gas, pipelines and nuclear power planned by Duke Energy, and it creates thousands more jobs.”
Are you interested in getting solar photovoltaics installed on your own roof? The price has never been lower, and the need has never been greater! Panelists from three WNC solar businesses — Sundance Power Systems, Sugar Hollow Solar and SolFarm Solar Co. — will answer your questions, from siting to financing and rebates. Do you want to stop wasting energy by tightening up your home? Energy Savers Network will describe its weatherization services, which are free to low-income residents.
Local activist Cathy Scott will report on the struggle against the fracked-gas Atlantic Coast Pipeline, which threatens low-income communities of color in Eastern North Carolina and threatens us all with runaway climate change. Carolyn Anderson of Indivisible Asheville/WNC and the WNC Renewables Coalition will give the latest update on the campaign to move the city of Asheville’s money out of fossil fuels.
Solar and weatherization companies, as well as several nonprofits, will offer more information, literature and action opportunities at their tables.
The group 350 Asheville is a chapter of 350.org, an international organization co-founded by climate activist Bill McKibben to raise awareness and stop climate catastrophe by keeping fossil fuels in the ground. The number 350 refers to the safe level of parts per million of CO2 in the atmosphere; we are now above 400 and climbing. The goals of the Go Fossil Free campaign are a fast and just transition to 100 percent renewable energy for all, no new fossil fuel projects anywhere and not a penny more for dirty energy (see www.350.org for more info).
Imagine a city where every feasible school, government building, business, place of worship and home has solar photovoltaic panels! Imagine electric cars powered by the sun, solar hot water, wind farms, microhydro power from streams and battery storage. Add in microbial biogas digesters that produce methane for cooking, as well as excellent fertilizer, out of waste.
I believe that if everyone does what they can to move toward clean energy and presses their elected officials to do the same, we can reach our goals and stop the cataclysmic disasters of climate change. The poor and marginalized of the world are hurt first and worst by such disasters. And let’s remember that things like carpooling, hanging laundry out to dry in the sun and wind, composting food scraps and eating a locally sourced, plant-based diet all help to lower our fossil fuel footprint. Through collective action, we can make fracked gas power plants obsolete!
Cathy Holt (firstname.lastname@example.org) is an environmental activist with 350.org and Divest! Fossil Fuels who also teaches and coaches the Connection Practice (combining empathy and insight for healthy communication) and is a HeartMath personal resiliency coach.